In a horrible case that has shocked India, and 8-year-old Muslim girl was kidnapped, taken to a Hindu temple, raped repeatedly and then murdered. However, once the crime was discovered, Hindus rushed to the defense of the rapists in the name of nationalism:
In early January, Asifa Bano, an 8-year-old girl in a purple dress, was grazing her horses in a meadow in Kashmir when a man beckoned her into a forest. She followed.
According to police, he grabbed her by the neck and forced her to take sleeping pills. With the help of a friend, they say, he dragged her to a nearby temple and locked her inside.
For the next three days, police say, the two men and at least one other raped her, again and again. Suspects told investigators that their motive had been to drive Asifa’s nomadic community out of the area. In the end, she was strangled, after one of the men allegedly insisted on raping her one last time.
Days later, Asifa’s crumpled body was found in the forest, in the same purple dress, now smeared with blood.
Eight men have been arrested in connection with the case, and several have confessed, according to police in the state of Jammu and Kashmir, where the killing took place. Two of the accused are police officers said to have accepted thousands of dollars to cover up the crime. One of the arrested suspects said he was 15, though police officers, based on a medical examination, believe he is at least 19.
It seemed another isolated, horrific episode of sexual violence in India, perpetrated against a powerless girl by brutal men. But in the months since Asifa’s murder, the case has become another battleground in India’s religious wars.
Hindu nationalists have turned it into a rallying cry – not calling for justice for Asifa, but rushing to the defense of the accused. All of the men arrested are Hindu, and Asifa’s nomadic people, the Bakarwals, are Muslim.
Some of the police officers who investigated the case are also Muslim, and for that reason, the Hindu activists say, they cannot be trusted.
This week, a mob of Hindu lawyers physically blocked police officers from entering a courthouse to file charges against the men. The officers retreated to a judge’s house later in the evening to complete the paperwork.
Protests and counterprotests are now spreading. On Wednesday, much of Kathua, a small town in Kashmir near where Asifa was killed, was shut down by demonstrators, including dozens of Hindu women who helped block a highway and organize a hunger strike.
“They are against our religion,” said Bimla Devi, one of the protesters. If the accused men aren’t released, she said, “we will burn ourselves.”
Police officials say they have physical evidence and DNA tests linking the defendants to Asifa’s death. They also say they have interviewed more than 130 witnesses, who “unequivocally corroborated the facts that emerged.”
Attempts to derail case
Several prominent members of India’s dominant political force, the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, are pushing to have the case taken out of the hands of the state police, arguing that the Central Bureau of Investigation would be a better, more neutral agency to handle it.
Many suspect this is an attempt to win leniency for the accused, noting that the bureau is an arm of the central government, which the Bharatiya Janata Party controls.
Crime inside Hindu temple
That a Hindu temple is at the center of the crime makes this case even more combustible. Police say that Sanji Ram, the temple’s custodian, devised the plan as a way to terrorize the Bakarwals, and that he enlisted a nephew and some friends to kidnap and kill Asifa. Police say they believe Asifa was selected simply because she was by herself and “a soft target.”
For generations, Bakarwal nomads, who drift with their herds across the plains and hills of northern India, have leased pastures from Hindu farmers for their animals to graze in winter. But in recent years, some Hindus in the Kathua area have begun a campaign of abuse against the nomads. Villagers said Ram was their ringleader.
“His poison has been spreading,” said Talib Hussain, a Bakarwal leader.
“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.”
Feelings between the two communities are so bitter that when Asifa didn’t return from the meadow, her parents immediately suspected that something terrible had been done to her.
They enlisted the police and went to the small temple where Ram works. He insisted that he had not seen the girl.
The temple was locked. According to police, at that moment Asifa was being starved inside, hidden under a table and some plastic mats.
Mohammad Yusuf Pujwala, Asifa’s father, said his daughter was killed for one reason: to drive the Bakarwals away.
“But we have land here and life here,” he said. “This is home for us.” He sounded almost too tired to grieve.
Asifa, he said, had never been to school, even though her brothers had. Her favorite thing to do was play in the meadow.
Unimaginable brutality, says Rahul Gandhi
Congress president Rahul Gandhi on Thursday described the rape and killing of an 8-year-old girl in Jammu and Kashmir’s Kathua as “unimaginable brutality” that cannot go unpunished, and wondered how anybody can seek to protect the culprits.
He also lashed out at the politics being played over the crime.
“How can anyone protect the culprits of such evil,” he asked, adding that the violence against the child was a crime against humanity.
“It cannot go unpunished,” he said on Twitter.
“What have we become if we allow politics to interfere with such unimaginable brutality perpetrated on an innocent child,” he tweeted.
Angry, ashamed and heartbroken is how the Indian film industry personalities described their feelings over the Unnao and Kathua rapes and demanded swift action against the perpetrators.
Celebrities such as Javed Akhtar, Abhishek Bachchan, Swara Bhasker and Hansal Mehta took to social media to condemn the two brutal incidents that have shocked the nation.
In Unnao, a teen rape survivor claimed BJP MP Kuldeep Singh Sengar had raped her and the death of her father in police custody. The Yogi Adityanath-led Uttar Pradesh government has filed a first information report (FIR) against Sengar.
While in Kathua, eight-year-old Asifa was allegedly gangraped by six men who had held her in captivity in a small temple village for a week in January. She was drugged so that she could be sexually assaulted again before being bludgeoned to death.
Noted screenwriter Javed Akhtar said it was high time that people came forward in support of women rights.
“All those who wish justice for women should stand up and raise their voices against the rapists and their protectors in Unnao and Kathua.
“In Unnao, the brother of the alleged rapist is arrested for beating the father of the rape victim which caused his death. So far police has not taken any action in the rape case. The MLA is walking free and has the audacity to call the victim and her family ‘lowly people’,” he wrote
Director Hansal Mehta retweeted The New York Times piece which detailed how Asifa’s rape and murder led to protests by Hindu nationalists who defended the accused in the case.
“Is this nationalism?” Mehta wrote alongside the link.
Sonam Kapoor also shared the same article and called out “fake nationals and fake Hindus” in her tweet.
“Ashamed appalled and disgusted by fake nationals and fake Hindus. I cannot believe this is happening in my country,” she wrote.
Actor-filmmaker Farhan Akhtar pleaded the case of an eight-year-old who was subjected to unspeakable brutalities.
“Imagine what goes through the mind of an 8 yr old as she is drugged, held captive, gang raped over days and then murdered. If you don’t feel her terror, you are not human. If you don’t demand Asifa get justice, you belong to nothing (sic)” Farhan tweeted.
Swara wrote, “An 8 year old girl was gangraped & murdered in a temple because she belonged to a Muslim tribe that Hindu right wing goons wanted evicted from their area! #Kathua #India this is on us!!!! If in #Delhi pls join TODAY #JusticeforAsifa (sic).”
Actor-comic Vir Das asked the people to set aside political differences and unite to fight the perpetrators of the crime.
“I can’t breathe after reading this. I need to share it. And so do you. Please do. Justice for Asifa. Dear politicians, I’d like to see every one of you miserable scum and your army of slimy sycophants put your parties and your bullsh*t aside and do something to make sure that no child ever has to face what this girl did. But you won’t. Because you don’t deserve this country,” he tweeted.
Riteish Deshmukh wrote, “A 8-year-old is drugged, raped & murdered and another one is fighting for justice for herself and the death of her father in custody. We have a choice either raise your voice or be a silent spectator. ‘Stand up for what is right even if you are standing alone.’ #Kathua #Unnao”
Filmmaker Shirish Kunder shared a news article and wrote, “Please read this. If your blood boils, please share it. Because at a time when there’s a section of people supporting these monsters, it’ll mean some humanity is still alive.”
Tisca Chopra also tweeted, “So pained to read about #Unnao & #Kathua rapes how strongly the government responds will be its true test @PMOIndia. At least I won’t vote for them coming elections if they don’t take action this time.”
Actor Rahul Bose called the incidents “gut wrenching”.
“Unimaginable depravity that is disturbing on so many levels. Our response will decide what we have become as a society,” Bose added.
Actors Ranvir Shorey and Richa Chadha attacked the people who defended the accused in the name of religion.
“If these people had an iota of reverence and respect for Hinduism, they’d be up in arms against the people who used a temple to torture, rape and murder a child! These are slogans to be used when the people who have committed these crimes are hanged! Utterly appalling that slogans like ‘Jai Shri Ram’ and ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’ are being used to defend perpetrators of heinous crimes. These vicious beasts will destroy India and Hinduism. Unnao and Kathua,” Shorey said
“These men fast on Navratras and pray to Devi Ma, yet they defend a man who plotted the rape, torture and murder of a child inside a temple. Look at them, Shame them. If a stray news report can make credible people. Hindu haters why are these fake Hindus not unemployed,” Chadha tweeted. (source)
There is a lot of tension between Muslims and Hindus in India, and blame equally goes to both sides for many incidents the further violence instead of alleviate it. However, in this case, the clear blame goes to the Hindus because the case is so egregious and terrible. What makes the situation worse is that the Hindus are defending the rapists because the “other” side” are Muslims.
This is the evil of ethnonationalism at Shoebat.com has been driving over and over. Being happy and wanting to present, preserve, and protect one’s culture, people, and way of life is natural and good. However, it cannot come at the expense of other people, especially the innocent. God is the author of all life and all peoples, and while there are differences between men, all men are equal in dignity before the eyes of God. Might does not make right, and the righteousness of a man comes from the grace of God.
The ethnonationalists do not believe in this. They believe that their righteousness comes from their biology as they see themselves as superior to their neighbors. It is just another form of darwinism.
The fact that the Hindu ethnonationalists will defend these rapists speaks to the real plans they have for India, which Shoebat.com has been exposing, for just as they raped and murdered this girl and feel no sorrow or care except for their own interests, so they also desire to do to all non-Hindus across India.
Evil cannot justify evil, ever.