Rape, murder of 8-year-old Muslim girl spark communal tensions in Kashmir

03:27 PM | 12 Apr, 2018
Rape, murder of 8-year-old Muslim girl spark communal tensions in Kashmir
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SRINAGAR - The rape and brutal killing of an 8-year-old Muslim girl in Indian-occupied  Kashmir has sparked tension among the Hindu and Muslim community in the valley, exposing the vulnerability of peace.

The victim, Asifa Bano went to graze her horses in a meadow on January 10. After some time, the horses returned but Asifa was nowhere to be seen, stirring concerns among her family members.

Two days later, the family filed a police complaint but according to victim's father, Mr Pujwala, the police did not cooperate. He further claimed that one of the police officers said Asifa must have 'eloped' with a boy.

Just as a week passed, Muhammad Yusuf Pujwala was informed by a neighbour that Bano's body was lying in bushes in the nearby forest, confirming the concerns of the 52-year-old that something horrible must have happened to his daughter.

The police in the occupied valley have arrested eight men, including a retired government official, four police officers and a juvenile in connection with Asifa's death.

As per police investigations, Sanji Ram, a 60-year-old retired government officer, allegedly planned the crime after enlisting help of police officers identified as Surender Verma, Anand Dutta, Tilak Raj and Mr Khajuria.

Mr Ram's son, Vishal, his nephew, a juvenile, and his friend, Parvesh Kumar, are also accused of the rape and murder.

According to police, two men and at least one other raped Bano repeatedly in a temple after giving him sleeping pills and during the investigations, the accused revealed that their motive had been to drive Asifa’s nomadic Gujjar community out of the area.

The Jammu and Kashmir chief minister, Mehbooba Mufti, had ordered an investigation by the crime branch but the ethnic backdrop in the tragic incident is of importance because all the accused are Hindus while Asifa’s people, the Bakarwals, are Muslim. Moreover, some of the police officers who investigated the case are also Muslim, prompting concerns of injustice in the Hindu community.

The case is over two months old, however, it has become a bone of contention between the community members living in a restive region.

What exacerbates the situation for Pujwala is the fact that Bano was not their real daughter and he had adopted her from his brother-in-law after two of his daughters were killed in an accident some years ago.

Lawyers scuffle with policemen outside court

Meanwhile, on Monday as investigations are underway, lawyers tried to block the presentation of a charge sheet in a court in Kashmir court of a Chief Judicial Magistrate at Kathua, following which an FIR was registered against them.

Former Chief Minister Omar Abdullah criticized the lawyers's unsuccessful bid and welcomed the registration of the FIR.

Celebrities React to Brutal Murder

Top Indian celebrities decried the tragic killing of Bano on Twitter, calling for thorough investigations and stern action against the accused.