The rape and murder has Asifa, who was from a nomadic Muslim tribe has created outrage across the country.
Eight-year-old Ashifa was grazing the cattle owned by her nomadic Muslim herder family when she was kidnapped. A week later, her raped and mutilated body was found in the woods of Kathua in Jammu and Kashmir. Since the incident came to light less than two days ago, the country has been reeling from shock and outrage. Anger is also building over inaction against the accused in the Unnao rape case, with the Allahabad high court reprimanding the state government for ‘collapse of law and order’ and the Centre approving a CBI probe into the case. People from all walks of life — politicians, sportspersons and actors — have spoken out on the horrific crimes and demanded strict action against the culprits.
It takes a half hour uphill trek from the nearest road — through dense forests — to reach Rasana village in Kathua, the home of eight-year-old Asifa, who was brutally raped and murdered earlier this year.
The only house in the middle of a jungle, is now locked. Nobody seems to know where the family that belongs to a nomadic Muslim tribe has gone.
“When the body of Asifa was brought here for burial, people from the village attacked us. They said they will not allow us to bury her here, else they will take back the land,” said Mohammad Jan Asifa’s Uncle.
The investigating agency says Asifa was kept at Devsthan or a place of worship at Rasana village, drugged and finally raped and murdered. Her body was dumped in a nearby forest.
The abduction, rape and killing of the girl from the Bakherwal community was part of a carefully planned strategy to remove the minority nomadic community from the area, the 15-page chargesheet filed by the Jammu and Kashmir Police’s Crime Branch in the chief judicial magistrate’s court said. It lists the caretaker of the Devisthan, a small temple, in Rassana village in Kathua, as the main conspirator behind the abduction, rape and killing.
A separate chargesheet was filed on Tuesday on the role of the juvenile, who cannot be publicly named according to the law. All eight are under arrest.
Lal Singh and Prakash Chandar Ganga, both ministers in the Mehbooba government, while addressing a rally organised by the Hindu Ekta Manch in Kathua on March 4, allegedly protested against the arrest of a Hindu man accused in the case. They allegedly dismissed as “jungle raj” investigation by the crime branch of J&K police which had submitted a chargesheet detailing the role of each of the accused in the horrific gang rape and murder case.
CM Mehbooba Mufti, however, stood firm and declared that she would not allow protests to let police discharge their responsibility. “The law will not be obstructed by the irresponsible actions and statements of a group of people. Proper procedures are being followed, investigations are on the fast track and justice will be delivered. #JusticeForAsifa,” she tweeted in both English and Urdu. Many others tweeted with the hashtag #JusticeForAsifa trended nationally on Thursday evening.
In perhaps the most widespread outrage being witnessed over rape cases since the Nirbhaya incident, nearly 20 city-based organisations would hold protests at Mumbai’s Azad Maidan on Friday. People from all walks of life — politicians, sportspersons and actors — have spoken out and demanded strict action against the culprits.
On Thursday, organisations like the All India Progressive Women’s Association, National Federation of Indian Women, JNU Students’ Union and the Students’ Federation of India held a protest at Parliament Street over the gruesome incidents in Kathua and Unnao. The protesters alleged that the BJP’s motto of ”Beti bachao, beti padhao” rang hollow in the light of these cases. “Two incidents of rape have shocked the nation not just for the horrific nature of the crime but also for the ruling party trying to shield the accused, with its ministers even going on to support bandhs and rallies against arresting of the rape accused,” All India Students’ Association state secretary Niraj Kumar said. Kumar was referring to the two BJP ministers – Chaudhary Lal Singh and Chander Prakash Ganga – who attended an event organised by Hindu Ekta Manch, an outfit that has been protesting against the arrests in the Kathua case.
Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti who met in Delhi yesterday has tweeted, saying her government will come up with a tough law to deal with those who rape minors.
We will never ever let another child suffer in this way. We will bring a new law that will make the death penalty mandatory for those who rape minors, so that little Ashifa’s case becomes the last. 2/2
— Mehbooba Mufti (@MehboobaMufti) April 12, 2018
I want to assure the entire nation that I stand committed not just to ensure justice for Ashifa but also seek exemplary punishment for those responsible for a crime whose brutal savagery has shamed humanity. 1/2
— Mehbooba Mufti (@MehboobaMufti) April 12, 2018
Calling it a crime whose “brutal savagery has shamed humanity”, Ms Mufti assured people that she stands committed to ensuring justice for Asifa and seeking exemplary punishment for the guilty.