Slogans of ‘Justice for Gudiya’ reverberated the air in Shimla demanding proper investigation into the horrendous rape and murder of a 10th class school girl in Kotkhai named Saluja (real name hidden) who got the acronym of Gudiya meaning a doll or daughter. Since 4th July when Gudiya went missing the district of Shimla initially and then many parts of the state saw massive protests in support of the foremost demand of ‘proper investigation’ and action against the ‘real culprits’ who according to the people were at large. The sequence of events has been widely published and I do not want to go into those details, except laying narration of it. Nor am I trying to bring to the fore the investigation which according to general perception is not just botched up but hefty bribes to have been given to veneer the entire case with extremely subjective built up of the case. I am compelled to write this piece for two reasons: – a) the natives did not defend their ‘own clan’ people rather were in all out support for the ‘Nepali worker’ who they believe was falsely implicated and arrested and later killed in police custody allegedly by a co accused in Kotkhai police station. Why? Why people offended their own natives. So is it a good sign. Of course, yes. And b) the massive participation of the people by large numbers where the entire state was thrown on the back. In Shimla, I have been a witness to many movements and agitations, the largest being the apple growers’ agitation in 1992 for economic demands; the present one surpassed that in peoples’ participation. Why was it so that social issues knocked the state down and virtually paralysed the system? Now before I cover these two aspects of ‘Justice for Gudiya’ movement, let me place the sequence of events as they happened.
How it all happened?
It has been covered quite elaborately in the regional press. However, just to place the facts as they have unfolded, the sequence is as:
- On 4th July Gudiya goes missing. She used to walk 8 km distance from her home which included a dense forest.
- On 6th July, her body was found in a jungle. The police starts the
- Some photos of the accused are flashed in the twitter handle of the state chief minister Virbhadra Singh. However, after a few hours the photos are removed, thus creating confusion and suspect in the minds of the people that the top most authority is helping the accused.
- The police claim to have solved 90% of the case. However, the next day a special investigation team (SIT) was formed by the state government headed by the Inspector General (IG) south range.
- People do not accept the version of the police that a ‘Nepalese’ worker was involved in the heinous crime and that it was the act of the rich brats of the region. They demand thorough investigation and arrest of those who were in the photos that had been flashed by the CM’s twitter account.
- The protests start erupting and the foremost one been in Theog where the people blocked the road for over 6 hours, thrashed the policemen and broke some of the vehicles. Similarly, massive participatory protests were organised in Shimla under the banner of ‘Shimla citizens forum’ and a few other organisations. Young women, students, workers, common people thronged the streets and even violated the clamped section of 144 at the infamous Mall and Ridge of Shimla. Everyday protests started with the number of people increasing and the processions swelling gigantically.
- The government realising the pulse immediately shot a letter to the CBI and handed the investigations to them.
- One of the accused was killed in police custody in police station Kotkhai.. It is believed that he was the one who would have exposed the entire case and got the guilty to task. This news further precipitated the anger and both organised and spontaneous mobilisations started to begin at various centres. In Kotkhai, people picketed the PS and put it on fire. Similarly, massive protests erupted in the state right from Chamba to Nahan.
- The CBI too was dillydallying and the state knocked at the HP High court and asked for immediate take over by the CBI which it did and the court asked the agency to form a SIT and report back in 2 weeks.
Meanwhile, more actions, demonstrations are coming up which I believe will not end soon.
Now coming to the two foremost issues that I intend to present and which holds the key for such protests are as: –
- Why did the people come in support of the ‘Nepalese worker’ or for that matter another co accused who is from a poor background and vehemently against the local accused? The simple answer could be the gruesome and inhuman act done at their behest. But how did the people know about who are the real suspects and also about the tainted investigation and against their ‘own men’. When I write ‘own men’ it is a deliberate provocative narrative from me to address this issue as this area happens to be strongly bonded by respective clans called ‘Khunds’ in local dialect. These are considered from the ‘Kassite’ tribe which has migrated from central Asia some 3000 years ago and has an old history of migration and local level institutions which still manifests strongly. How could one justify a rationale for consulting an ‘oracle’ for some illness or otherwise in the family than to consult a doctor. I don’t want to dwell more than those reasons of bondage here but the point is that it is very strong. But, the fact of the matter is people came out against their ‘own men’. Why? This group of accused happens to be those who in the recent period has attained phenomenal wealth not through peasantry activities but through unscrupulous methods such as supply of drugs to the young, home delivery of liquor and such activities. This has spoiled the environment in the region and the mass of the people are quite scary of it. This surprisingly is now rampantly growing at different regions of the state. People are very anguished but in the absence of democratic forces the vent for the anger is limited in its organisational structure and only such events prove to be the rallying point.
- The second point that I need to draw focus is the reason for massive participation of the people and the reasons thereof. I would strongly propound the generalisation of the first reason as the driving force for such mobilisations. There exists and is rapidly strengthening a strong nexus now in the state where overnight rich men have born and because of this nexus it also has a support from the sections of the ruling parties. Gudiya case does not present as the first one in fact is in the series of committing such acts with a gravity and then managing the investigation through the nexus and money which has grown exponentially with these sections of people both in the cities and the countryside. And it creates a consciousness of ‘everything is manageable’. We are told this group had committed rape with a few more girls but could manage because of the growing strength of the nexus. So, it is more of a systemic crisis. Preluding to Gudiya there were cases of ‘Yug’ kidnapping and murder case in which a child was kidnapped for ransom by none others than his neighbours, then killed and drowned in a water tank in Shimla. This ‘nexus’ was there as well. Similarly ‘Chitra’ murder case where just 15 km away from Shimla a young woman was forced into prostitution, she resisted, was killed again by the people comprising of this ‘nexus’. In another incident, a forest guard was murdered in Karsog for obvious reasons of not allowing forest smuggling. The guard was killed by the same morphological ‘nexus’. Hence it is a systemic crisis which has precipitated and forced the people to mobilise themselves. On top of that the present bureaucracy who are to deliver in the form of executive by large is more careerist, less grounded and as Prof Prabhat Patnaik writes ‘are driven by other centres’; also makes the resentment to brew and manifest in varied forms. A few exceptions of the bureaucrats may be there but by large they are driven by such principles.
Hence this furore, anguish of the people is long drawn and kept on accumulating which has now reverberated on the streets for a safe environment and society.
Himachal, a state with semi-tribal, feudal and semi-feudal values is getting transformed with capitalist economy and neo-liberalism as the driving force. The decadent values, culture, spirit of alacrity of becoming rich overnight is growing fast and this ‘nexus’ is getting developed at a steadfast pace. This decadent culture has to be fought with full might and democratic values that requires an unhindered and unflinching struggle on all the fronts i.e. politically, ideologically and culturally. Alternatives have to be shown, built and nourished.
Gudiya thy name for every girl child but not the fate as it happened in Kotkhai !