Eight year old Muslim girl raped, reflection on religious division in India

Thursday 12th April 2018 08:48 EDT

The lifeless body of an eight year old girl of the Muslim nomad, Bakarwal tribe, has been recovered in Kathua, a small town in Jammu and Kashmir. Police inform that Asifa Bano was given sedatives and raped several times by different men over a period of three days. She was eventually strangled on January 17. Police say she would have been killed sooner, had one man not insisted on waiting so he could rape her a final time. Charging documents filed by the police reveal the young one's killers hit her twice on the head with a stone to make sure she was dead.

Along with bringing anguish and pain to the victim's family, the incident has also brought a religious friction, with shameful actions on the majority's part. While some demand justice for Asifa's family, there are shockingly a major group of people who demand justice for the accused men. Asifa's father Mohammad Yusuf Pujwala believes his daughter was killed by Hindu men for the sole purpose of driving people of his community away. Things became worse, when the police informed that she was killed in a Hindu temple, and that the temple's custodian plotted her death to torment the Bakarwal community. “A child of only eight years of age... became a soft target,” the police said.

A contemptible sight, chaos unfolded outside a courthouse in Jammu and Kashmir, when a mob of Hindu attorneys physically attempted to stop authorities from filing charges against the accused. They argued for a federal investigation, stating that the government had failed to “understand the sentiments of the people”. Charges have however been filed against those involved- four policemen, and a retired government official. Things soon took a bizarre route, when Hindu activists began to protest that some of the police officers were Muslims, “like Asifa” and so, could not be trusted. Dozens of Hindu women have helped block a highway and organise a hunger strike. Protestor Bimla Devi said, “They are against our religion.' She said if the accused men weren't freed, “We will burn ourselves”.

The case has undeniably shaken the state's Legislative Assembly. Several lawmakers have in fact, questioned the police's behaviour in the days after the girl went missing. It is reported that authorities waited two days to file a report after Asifa disappeared, and did not alert newspapers until days after she was killed. Lawmaker Shamima Firdous said, “The screams and cries of the girl were heard by neighbors. Why was there such a delay by police?” A Bakarwal social activist, Talib Hussain, who is fighting on behalf of the bereaved family, said that the tribe has leased land from Hindu farmers so that their animals can graze during the winter. However, in recent years, Hindus in the area have campaigned against them, led by Sanji Ram, one of the accused. “His poison has been spreading. When I was young, I remember the fear Sanji Ram's name invoked in Muslim women. If they wanted to scare each other, they would take Sanji Ram's name, since he was known to misbehave with Bakarwal women.”

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