#JusticeForAsifa: Australian & Indian intelligentsia sign letter of petition

Prominent writers, artists, theatre practitioners, musicians and academics from Australia have signed a letter expressing outrage against the brutal rape and murder that has shocked nations across the world.

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The rape and brutal murder of Asifa Banu has rocked not just India but the entire world. To register their sorrow and anger in relation to the brutal rape and murder of the eight year old child, the ongoing oppression of minorities in India, and to urge the Indian government to provide immediate justice for Asifa and other victims of sexualised violence in India, over a 100 prominent writers, artists, theatre practitioners, musicians and academics from Australia have signed a petition.

In a show of solidarity, the letter was hand-delivered to the Indian Consulates in Sydney and Melbourne, with all the names of the signatories to the letter.

Asifa Banu was abducted, brutally raped and tortured for seven days in a temple, then murdered in Kathua in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir. These terrible events have only recently come to light, and the response from the government has been shockingly callous and slow. The event has galvanised large sections of Indian society who continue to publicly protest against atrocities being committed upon minorities by a Hindu-majority government.

The signatories state, “As concerned citizens of Australia and India, we are deeply invested in the ongoing health of our democracies, the growing bilateral relationship between the two nations, and in drawing attention to and addressing the damage being done to both under the current Indian government.”

Addressing the High Commissioner, the signatories state, “We are calling for ‘Zero Tolerance After Asifa’ and urging the Indian government, which you represent in Australia, to take immediate action in providing justice to Asifa and all other victims of sexual violence, to provide support and compensation to their families, and to restore the faith of citizens and the international community in Indian democracy by bringing the perpetrators to justice immediately.”

FULL TEXT OF THE LETTER

April 23, 2018
To,
The High Commissioner of India in Australia
Subject: Petition with respect to Asifa Banu’s torturous rape and murder and to protest against the current climate of ongoing political atrocities towards Muslims and other minority communities in India

Sir,
We are writing this letter, to express our deepest sorrow and shock at the abduction, brutal and multiples rapes upon, and pre-meditated, cold-blooded murder of Asifa Banu, the eight-year old Indian girl from Kathua in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. Our condolences, belated and ineffectual as they are, go out to her family: words fail to even imagine their indescribable pain as their daughter was sexually tortured for seven days,
killed and dumped in a forest, and then denied burial in the local graveyard in January 2018. Through this letter we express our anger, distress, and mute hopelessness at the unjustifiable delay and coverups in the investigations to bring justice for a minor from the Muslim Bakerwal nomadic tribe, whose murder is not only reported to be a sexually-based crime, but also politically-motivated by a campaign of deep hatred and ongoing discriminations against Muslims and other minorities in the current Hindu-majority government.

We are equally outraged at the protection being provided to the accused, who belong to the Hindu community in Jammu and Kashmir, and whose members conspired to commit this horrific crime. This incident is one of the many heinous crimes being committed, reported and covered in domestic and international media, against members of the many minority communities of India on a regular basis ever since the current ruling government came to political power in 2014. The abuse of women and minors as fodder in these hate crimes, of using rape as a weapon of war against its own citizens, of engaging in overt and covert intimidation against those who dare to speak out, is the all-too-common face of the dastardly campaigns that seek to obliterate the existence of, and engage in a sustained drive against, Muslims and other minorities in India under the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government.

We are a group of writers, art-practitioners, academics, and media professionals in Australia who are closely connected to India. As concerned citizens of Australia and India, we are deeply invested in the ongoing health of our democracies, the growing bilateral relationship between the two nations, and in drawing attention to and addressing the damage being done to both under the current Indian government. We are appalled,
outraged and ashamed at the way gender oppressions are appropriated, torture on minority groups are justified, and interventions into people’s daily lives, food habits and cultural practices are being committed with impunity in the name of Hinduism under the aegis of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, led by the Prime Minister, Mr Narendra Modi.

We are calling for ‘Zero Tolerance After Asifa’ and urging the Indian government, which you represent in Australia, to take immediate action in providing justice to Asifa and all other victims of sexual violence, to provide support and compensation to their families, and to restore the faith of citizens and the international community in Indian democracy by bringing the perpetrators to justice immediately.