Vol. XLI No. 31 July 30, 2017

Himachal Pradesh: Huge Protests Demanding Justice for Gudiya

Tikender Singh Panwar

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 who got the acronym of Gudiya meaning a doll or daughter. Since July 4, 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.

Gudiya went missing on July 4. She used to walk eight kilometres distance from her home which included a dense forest. On July 6, her body was found in a jungle. Police began the investigation. Some photos of the accused were flashed on the twitter handle of the state chief minister Virbhadra Singh. However, after a few hours the photos were removed, thus creating confusion and suspicion in the minds of the people that the top most authority is helping the accused. The police claim to have solved 90 per cent 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 did 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 demanded thorough investigation and arrest of those who were in the photos that had been flashed by the CM’s twitter account.

Protests against this began. In Theog, people blocked the road for over six hours, thrashed the policemen and broke some of the vehicles. Similarly, massive 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 section 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 of the people immediately shot a letter to the CBI and handed over the investigations to them. One of the accused was killed in police custody in Kotkhai police station. 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 police station 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 two weeks.

Meanwhile, more actions, demonstrations are being organised. People were furious as this group of accused happen to be those who in the recent period have attained phenomenal wealth not through agriculture related 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 in different regions of the state. People are very anguished, but in the absence of democratic forces the vent for the anger is limited and only such events turn to be the rallying point. There exists a strong nexus now in the state that has a support from the sections of the ruling parties, which enables unscrupulous men turning rich overnight. In fact, Gudiya’s case is not the first one in the series of committing such heinous acts 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 feeling that ‘everything is manageable’. It is told that this group had committed rape on a few more girls but could manage because of the growing strength of the nexus. So, it is more of a systemic crisis.

Hence this furore is an expression of the pent up anguish and anger of the people on the streets for a safe environment and society.

Himachal Pradesh, a state with semi-tribal, feudal and semi-feudal values is getting transformed into capitalist economy with neo-liberalism as the driving force. The decadent values, culture and the spirit of becoming rich overnight is growing fast. This has to be fought with full might and democratic values that require an unhindered and unflinching struggle on all fronts.