6 years after the horrific gang rape of a Delhi student in a bus caused a worldwide outcry, India is in the spotlight again for another brutal rape. This time, the victim is an eight-year-old who was brutally gang-raped and murdered.
This incident has sparked a nationwide outrage and communal tensions.
On January 10, the minor identified as Ashifa, from a nomadic Bakerwal Muslim community, disappeared from a spot near her house close to Rasana village in Kathua, the northern state of Jammu and Kashmir. A week later, her body was found in the same area.
According to the police charge sheet, she was abducted by a school dropout, a minor, and an accomplice who forced her to take sedatives while keeping her captive in a shed and then a Hindu temple for five days.
While in captivity, she was repeatedly raped by the juvenile and different men, including a police constable.
She was finally strangled and beaten with a stone, and her body was discovered out in the open in a wooded area.
A special investigation team formed to probe the incident arrested eight people, including two Special Police Officers (SPOs) and a head constable, who was charged with destroying evidence. All the eight people arrested in the case so far are Hindus.
Jammu and Kashmir is India’s only Muslim majority state, but the Jammu region in the south, where the murder took place, is Hindu dominated.
The case has fueled the sharp communal divide in the region, with Muslim activists condemning what they see as a crime against their community and some Hindu groups arguing that the accused had been unfairly charged.
At one point, a crowd of Hindu lawyers tried to stop police from entering a court to file charges against the accused men.
The J&K Crime Branch submitted a chargesheet in court on Monday against the seven accused.
“The chargesheet against the seven accused persons involved in the crime has been produced before the Chief Judicial Magistrate, Kathua,” said Inspector-General of Police, Crime Branch, Syed Ahfadul Mujtaba.
High profile names from the world of cinema and cricket have also voiced outrage over the crime.
“What is happening to the world we live in???” Bollywood star Anushka Sharma, who is married to Indian cricket captain Virat Kohli, wrote on Twitter.
“These people should be given the most severe punishment there is! Where are we heading as humanity? Shaken to my core,” she said.
Cricketer Gautam Gambhir blamed India’s “stinking systems” for what some have described as a rape epidemic.
“Come on ‘Mr System’, show us if you have the balls to punish the perpetrators, I challenge you,” he tweeted.
More Twitter posts below…