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In January, eight-year-old Asifa Bano was grazing her horses in Harinagar district of Indian occupied Kashmir when she lost track of some of her horses. She enquired about their whereabouts from people nearby, when a man offered to help and took her to a nearby forest.
The man also called his friend to the jungle. She sensed that there was danger ahead, she tried to flee but one of the men grabbed the minor by her neck and forced her to swallow sedatives. The girl was dragged to a nearby temple, Devistan, and locked inside, the police said.
For the next three days, the two men tied the minor and took turns to rape her over and over before strangling her to death, according to the full text of charge sheet shared on First Post.
On the other hand, the effort of the girl’s family to look for her went in vain. Days later, the body of minor smeared with blood was found in the forest.
The case which initially seemed to be an isolated, heinous episode of sexual violence has escalated communal tensions in IoK. Over the course of the investigation, the police found out that the suspects engaged in the heinous act to drive out the Muslim community of Bakarwals from the tehsil.
The police have arrested eight men in the case and several have confessed to the crime. The custodian of the Devistan temple, Sanji Ram, has been labelled as ‘the mastermind’ behind the plot. The accused also includes police officers who confessed to having accepted thousands of dollars to cover up the crime, reported Times of India.
While the Bakarwals and others demand justice for Asifa, Hindu nationalists have jumped into the defence of the accused. For generations, Bakarwal nomads, who drift with their herds across the plains and hills of IoK, have leased pastures from Hindu farmers for their animals to graze in winter. But in recent years, some Hindus in the Kathua area have begun a campaign of abuse against the nomads.
On the other hand, India’s dominant political force, the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, are pushing to have the case taken out of the hands of the state police, arguing that the Central Bureau of Investigation would be a more neutral agency to handle it.
It is suspected that this is an attempt to win leniency for the accused.
Earlier this week, a mob of Hindu lawyers physically blocked police officers from entering a courthouse to file charges against the men. The officers, however, retreated to a judge’s house later in the evening to complete the paperwork.
Several Indian celebrities have taken to Twitter to condemn the brutal incident:
The cruelest form of evil is harming an innocent child. What is happening to the world we live in??? These people should be given the most severe punishment there is! Where are we heading as humanity?
Shaken to my core.#JusticeforAsifa
— Anushka Sharma (@AnushkaSharma) April 12, 2018
Imagine what goes through the mind of an 8 yr old as she is drugged, held captive, gang raped over days and then murdered.
If you don’t feel her terror, you are not human.
If you don’t demand Asifa get justice, you belong to nothing.
— Farhan Akhtar (@FarOutAkhtar) April 12, 2018
— Dia Mirza (@deespeak) April 12, 2018
A 8 year old is drugged, raped & murdered and another one is fighting for justice for herself and the death of her father in custody.
We have a choice either raise your voice or be a silent spectator.
‘Stand up for what is right even if you are standing alone.’#Kathua #Unnao
— Riteish Deshmukh (@Riteishd) April 12, 2018