NEW DELHI — Apr 16, 2018, 9:00 AM ET

8-year-old girl's brutal rape and murder sparks protests in India

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The brutal rape and murder of an 8-year-old girl in northern India has shocked the country.

Asifa Bano belonged to the Bakkarwals, a nomadic Muslim tribe who make a living by grazing cattle across the Himalayan mountains, in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir. She was reported missing in January, two days after she didn’t return from the forests looking for her horses. Five days later, her body was found.

"The eight-year-old was kidnapped, drugged and gang-raped before being strangled and murdered.," according to Indian news outlet Firstpost's report of charges filed by a special unit of the state police force.

PHOTO: People attend a protest against the rape of an eight-year-old girl, in Kathua, near Jammu and a teenager in Unnao, Uttar Pradesh state, in New Delhi, India April 15, 2018.Cathal McNaughton/Reuters
People attend a protest against the rape of an eight-year-old girl, in Kathua, near Jammu and a teenager in Unnao, Uttar Pradesh state, in New Delhi, India April 15, 2018.

Investigators allege that a retired government officer, Sanji Ram, planned the crime to terrorize the Muslim nomadic tribe and drive them away from the area. Also accused in the crime, which includes allegedly destroying evidence, are Ram’s son, his nephew (a juvenile), his friend and four policemen.

The eight suspects pleaded not guilty during their first court appearance on Monday, The Associated Press reported.

All of the accused are Hindus and, in February, a right-wing Hindu group marched in support of the suspects through the town of Kathua in Jammu alongside state ministers and senior officials of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), part of the ruling alliance in the state.

The protesters claimed state police in what is the country's only Muslim-majority state could not be trusted to be impartial and demanded the case be transferred to a federal investigative bureau.

PHOTO: Indian demonstrators display placards during a protest against two recently reported rape cases as they gather near the Parliament in New Delhi, India, April 15, 2018. Oinam Anand/AP
Indian demonstrators display placards during a protest against two recently reported rape cases as they gather near the Parliament in New Delhi, India, April 15, 2018.

When police earlier this month headed to the Kathua court to lodge the charges, they had to confront a group of Hindu lawyers who blocked their way, another sign of the split along religious lines in the reaction to the case.

As more details of the crime have emerged, opposition parties have put the spotlight on Prime Minister Narendra Modi for his BJP party's support of the accused.

Protests and candlelight vigils have been held around the nation as film stars and celebrities express disgust over the crime on social media, Indian broadcaster NDTV reported.

A protest in Delhi on Sunday in support of the victim drew crowds mobilized through social media to demand that the accused not be shielded by the state. It included speeches, poetry and songs.

Modi finally broke his silence on Friday, saying, "No criminal will be spared and our girls will get justice."

Two state BJP ministers who marched in support of the accused resigned following criticism.

PHOTO: Indian students in Ahmedabad, India protest in support of rape victims in Jammu and Uttar Pradesh, April 15, 2018.Sam Panthaky/AFP/Getty Images
Indian students in Ahmedabad, India protest in support of rape victims in Jammu and Uttar Pradesh, April 15, 2018.

The court in Kathua set April 28 for the next hearing. The state has appointed two public prosecutors who are neither Muslim nor Hindu to show its "neutrality."

Meanwhile, a group of prominent retired civil servants have written an open letter to Modi saying, "The bestiality and the barbarity involved in the rape and murder of an eight-year-old child shows the depths of depravity that we have sunk into. In post-independence India, this is our darkest hour and we find the response of our government, the leaders of our political parties inadequate and feeble. At this juncture, we see no light at the end of the tunnel and we hang our heads in shame."

News - 8-year-old girl's brutal rape and murder sparks protests in India

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  • Tom Hayes

    That any religion would condone the rape of an 8 year old is disgusting.

  • Jokuvaan

    I suppose its news when a man bites a dog.

  • Marly Duran

    Reading about an 8 year old little girl being gang-raped and murdered was horrifying.
    But then to see that there are people supporting the rapists who killed her~is beyond comprehension.

    Like when trump defended the neo nazis from Charlottesville after that woman was killed.

    To support the monsters who brutally tortured and killed this child- just to send a message to her tribe...
    They deserve a slow death penalty and every supporter should get syphilis and worms.

  • Jakejr Ly

    Other countries are preoccupied with race and religion war. Glad here in US we don't have that problem.

  • OverSite

    Probably staged for a media show to generate pity for females and disdain for males. A sacrifice for 'the cause'.

    India has a serious problem with dangerous mobs and their complete lack of common sense when it comes to crime and any judicial process.

    Has there even been an investigation yet?

  • Frenchie11

    Monsters, they broke her legs, beat her and kept her alive for days with drugs so they could keep on raping her......poor girl!

  • Tegbessou Géléhéso

    A young innocent eight year old was kidnapped, terrorized, rapped and murdered.... heartbreaking...

  • Red Hawk

    I hate to say this but it sounds almost like a Thugee (Cult of Kali) ritual murder. They once plagued India in the nineteenth century

  • Personal

    Oh, that poor child.

  • Stefan Michaud

    When I clicked on this headline, I expected the story to be about Florida. Silly me, I should know that Americans don't protest this sort of thing.

  • bibleexpert

    I'm not an expert on Hinduism, but I have read the Bhagavad Gita and I don't recall reading anything that would justify driving Muslims out of your community, much less raping anyone. It seems Hindu fundamentalists do not take a back seat to Christian or Muslim fundamentalists when it comes to bad behavior. There are even people, calling themselves Buddhists, engaging in violence in Sri Lanka and other countries, despite their behavior being in clear violation of the teachings of Buddha. Perhaps Buddhists ignoring the requirements of the Noble Eightfold Path will eventually become as popular as Christians ignoring the teachings of Jesus. But probably not, since Buddhism clearly teaches that spiritual salvation depends on your behavior - not on your beliefs, while millions of Christians entertain the fantasy that they will be frolicking with Jesus in the clouds forever by simply agreeing that he is the "only begotten Son of God who died for their sins", etc., etc.

  • Jenna

    "Bestiality" might not be the best word to use in exactly that context. Just sayin'.

  • Bree Zee

    If your defense of the rape and murder of an 8 you girl is a religion, then you clearly do not understand what religion or god or faith is supposed to be about. The people defending this action should be ashamed, but I doubt they have the character, integrity or morality to understand that.

  • Bill Paish

    Shocks the country ? Why ? If you read the news, it happens almost monthly.