Image credit: The Observer Post
by Ayesha Khan 26 September 2023
India, often celebrated for its diversity and pluralistic values, stands as a testament to the coexistence of multiple cultures, languages, and religions. However, the recent abduction of a minor Muslim girl, Gulfasa, in Fekrahi Village, Saharsa District, Bihar, has cast a dark shadow over the country’s reputation as a haven for all its citizens. This harrowing incident and the subsequent lack of effective action highlight a disturbing trend of discrimination and insecurity faced by the Muslim community in India.
On September 2nd, 2023, Gulfasa, a young Muslim girl, became the victim of a heinous crime. Mazhar Khan, her distraught father, alleged that six Hindu boys, namely Ratnesh Yadav, Sarvan Yadav, Raveen Yadav, Pappu Yadav, Akhilesh Yadav, Sonu Kumar, and Amar Yadav, kidnapped his daughter. Sixteen days have passed since that fateful day, yet Gulfasa remains missing, and justice seems elusive.
The Bihar Police’s inability to locate Gulfasa and the absence of stringent action against the accused kidnappers raise serious questions about the effectiveness and impartiality of the justice system. Furthermore, the victim’s family has reported threats from Ratnesh Yadav and his family, compelling them to withdraw the First Information Report (FIR). The fear is not limited to Gulfasa alone; there are grave concerns that her younger sister may also be at risk of abduction.
To comprehend the gravity of Gulfasa’s abduction and its implications, one must consider the broader context of the challenges faced by the Muslim community in India.
- Communal Tensions: India has a history of communal tensions and violence, often affecting minority communities, including Muslims. These incidents create an atmosphere of fear and distrust.
- Discriminatory Legislation: Controversial laws like the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and the proposed National Register of Citizens (NRC) have raised concerns about the rights and citizenship status of Muslims, fueling anxiety and insecurity.
- Economic Disparities: Muslims in India often encounter economic disparities, limited access to quality education, and fewer employment opportunities. These challenges perpetuate a cycle of poverty and marginalization.
- Political Underrepresentation: Muslims are often underrepresented in political spheres, limiting their ability to advocate for their rights and address their community’s concerns.
- Hate Crimes and Lynchings: Hate crimes and mob lynchings, frequently targeting Muslims, have become disturbingly common. Perpetrators often escape justice, leaving victims and their families in a state of vulnerability.
- Polarization: The rise of divisive rhetoric and hate speech in public discourse has deepened societal divisions, making Muslims feel increasingly marginalized and vulnerable.
In today’s interconnected world, social media has become a powerful tool for raising awareness and mobilizing support for important causes. The campaign initiated by Indian Muslim activists, calling on Chief Minister Nitish Kumar of Bihar and the Bihar Police to ensure justice for Gulfasa, is a testament to the impact of social media in highlighting injustices and advocating for change.
The hashtag #JusticeforGulfasa, which trended on Indian social media platforms, garnered a cumulative reach of approximately 16.2 million people. This demonstrates the widespread concern and outrage over Gulfasa’s abduction and the urgent need for justice. Social media can serve as a platform for citizens to hold authorities accountable and demand action in cases of injustice.
The abduction of Gulfasa and the subsequent lack of effective action underscore the pressing need to address the plight of Muslims in India. It is a wake-up call for the nation to reaffirm its commitment to justice, equality, and inclusivity. India’s diversity is its strength, and it is imperative that the country lives up to its promise of being a safe haven for all its citizens, regardless of their religious beliefs.
The steps outlined above, from a thorough investigation into Gulfasa’s case to legal reforms and economic empowerment, represent a path forward towards a more just and inclusive society. The power of social media and civic engagement also reminds us that the collective voice of concerned citizens can drive change and hold authorities accountable. It is incumbent upon all Indians to work together to ensure that Gulfasa’s abduction is not just another tragedy, but a catalyst for a brighter and more equitable future for all.
The writer is an independent analyst based out of Islamabad, Pakistan.