India outrage spreads over rape of eight-year-old girl

(BBC) – The brutal gang rape and murder of an eight-year-old girl has sparked outrage and anger across India.

The body of Asifa Bano, who belonged to a Muslim nomadic tribe, was found in a forest on 17 January near Kathua city of Indian-administered Kashmir.

The story made headlines this week when Hindu right-wing groups protested over the arrest of eight Hindu men.

The case has become a religious flashpoint in an already polarised Indian region.

The men the police have arrested include a retired government official, four police officers and a minor – all of them belong to a local Hindu community that has been involved in a land dispute with the Muslim nomads.

The crime took place in one of India’s most restive regions. Since 1989, there has been an armed revolt in the Muslim-majority Kashmir valley against Indian rule – they valley is adjacent to Hindu-majority Jammu.

Asifa’s family belongs to a community of Muslim nomadic shepherds who crisscross the Himalayas with their livestock. In the winter, they often travel from the valley to Jammu, where they use public forest land for grazing – this has recently brought them into conflict with some Hindu residents in the region.

Investigators believe that the accused men wished to force the nomads out of Jammu. After they were arrested, lawyers in Jammu city tried to stop police entering the court to file a charge sheet.

The lawyers were believed to be supporting a Hindu right-wing group that has alleged that the accused men are innocent, and have demanded that the case be transferred to India’s federal police.

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