Outrage in India over rape and murder of an 8-year-old girl
Massive protests have rocked India over the rape and murder of an eight-year-old in the remote Rasana village near the Indo-Pak border in Kathua district of the northern Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir.
The crime took place last January but the outrage was sparked only after the horrifying details of the eight-year-old girl’s painful death came to light. Eight people, including three policemen and a juvenile, have been arrested.
According to the charges filed by the Jammu and Kashmir crime branch investigating the case, the motive was to dislodge the Muslim nomads known as 'Bakerwals' from the area. The girl was kidnapped from near her home on January 10 and kept sedated while she was repeatedly gang-raped for days at a Hindu place of worship at Rasana village. She was drugged and starved the entire time she was there. Before she was eventually killed, one of the police officers responding allegedly asked her killer to wait so he could rape the girl one last time. She was then stoned and her body was dumped in a nearby forest.
One of the rapists is a student who traveled all of the way from Meerut, in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, after being invited to come to "satisfy his lust".
The brutality of the crime so stark, not only was this child raped and murdered, but the locals refused to allow her family to bury her in the village.
"People from the neighboring village attacked us when the body of the eight-year-old was brought here, they didn't allow us to bury her here," said Mohammad Jan, uncle of the girl who lives a kilometer away.
The family of nomads is now camping in the mountains of Udhampur, 150 kilometres from their village in Kathua. The girl was adopted by her mother's brother just days after she was born. The uncle had lost three children in a road accident. The is shattered as it fights for justice.
"She was killed, her mouth had turned black, her body was wounded, we want justice, what was done to our daughter must be done to them", said the girl's biological mother.
But the the family members of the eight accused demand a CBI (Central Bureau of Investigation) probe, not a state crime branch investigation. The daughter of one of the accused, Sanjhi Ram, who the crime branch claims is the "mastermind" behind the attack, says the probe was botched.
"Our demand is very clear, we want a CBI inquiry. Those in the crime branch who did the probe do not have a good track record," alleged Madhu.
The Jammu Bar association, a body of the lawyers who gave a one-day strike call in Jammu and did not attend the courts for a fortnight, claim the probe by the crime branch investigation was unfair.
"A probe by the crime branch is a manifestation of the Kashmir-centric mindset, an attempt to divide Jammu and Kashmir," said BS Salathia, President of the Jammu Bar Association.
But the BJP ruling at the center and the state which has a Hindu vote bank has found itself in a corner after two of its state ministers, Chandra Prakash Ganga and Lal Singh, put their weight behind a local Hindu Group, the 'Hindu Ekta Manch', which took out rallies carrying national flag in support of the accused and a demand for a CBI probe and gave controversial speeches-
When the public pressure mounted with reports of outrage across the county, the BJP ministers of Jammu and Kashmir, who defended the men arrested for the rape and murder later handed in their resignations after being asked to do so by the party.
Industries Ministers, Chandra Prakash Ganga and Forest Minister Lal Singh, had addressed a rally in support of the accused by the Hindu Ekta Manch in March. While Ganga allegedly termed the arrest as "jungle raj", Lal Singh encouraged people to "defy prohibitory orders launch an agitation with full force...or stay home."
Chief Minister, Mehbooba Mufti of the PDP (People's Democratic Party), is ruling the state in alliance with the BJP (Bhartiya Janta Party). She promises her government will come up with a tough law to deal with those who rape minors.
The growing outrage over the last few days appeared to narrow Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti’s options and she signaled that she could consider a separation rather than continue with Chandra Prakash Ganga and Lal Singh in her cabinet. Her tough posturing and a public outcry finally led the two minsiters to hand over their resignations.
As the pitch for justice for the eight-year-old grew louder, Prime Minister Narindra Modi said such incidents could not be part of any civilized society and promised to make sure that the culprits do not get away.
"As a country, as a society we all are ashamed of it (rapes)," Modi said. "I want to assure the country that no culprit will be spared, complete justice will be done. Our daughters will definitely get justice."
The family has asked the Supreme Court to transfer the trial to another state. Citing that the local lawyers stopped the Crime Branch from filing the chargesheet at the Kathua district court, the family lawyers said they would ask for a transfer.
"We are apprehensive that the trial will not happen peacefully, seeing the condition in Jammu. Seeing that lawyers opposed it in Kathua and did not let the chargesheet proceed, we request the Supreme Court to transfer this case to some other state," a lawyer of the family said.
Amid the outrage the men accused of involvement in the rape and murder of an 8-year-old girl appeared in a court on Monday for the first hearing in a case that sparked nationwide outrage. Pleading not guilty, they asked the judge for a lie detector test. The eighth accused, a juvenile, has moved a bail application.
The case has sparked protests - not just in India from ordinary people and celebrities both - but across the world. People are asking for a speedy and a fair trail so that action is taken against the perpetrators. How swiftly the process is completed and justice will be delivered will affect the reputation of a country that has been lacking on account of crimes against women.