The horrific story of an eight-year-old girl who was mercilessly raped by a group of men for days then killed inside a temple has enraged millions in India.
According to NDTV, the alleged mastermind of the crime was a former revenue officer whose objective was to drive the Bakerwals community, a group the victim’s family belonged to, out of Rassana village in Kathua.
Based on the police reports, the little girl named Asifa Bano was reportedly grazing her horses near her small house on January 10 when a 19-year-old manipulated her into coming with him to a nearby forest.
The man then dragged the young girl to a small temple in the village where she was drugged and raped repeatedly for three days by her captor and two other men. For the duration of the nightmarish ordeal, the girl was kept sedated and without food.
She was even raped one last time by someone who stopped the killer who was about to strangle and bludgeon her to death with a heavy rock. Her lifeless body would be found seven days later in the forests.
First in the list of the accused was the 19-year-old school dropout who lured the victim to the temple. Aside from his DNA matching the hair found on the child’s body, he also confessed to the crime upon questioning.
The teen’s confession and information provided by other suspects eventually led to the arrest of his uncle Sanji Ram, the person in charge of the temple where forensic evidence was found.
The third suspect linked to the crime is Special Police Officer Deepak Khajuria, the person in the story who raped the girl one more time before she was killed. His call data records reportedly established his presence at the location of the temple during the crime.
Special Police Officer Surinder Kumar, who was identified by witnesses at the crime scene was named suspect number four on the charge sheet.
The teen also identified his friend Parvesh Kumar, fifth on the list, as one of the rapists who abused the child repeatedly for days.
Vishal Jangotra, Sanji Ram’s son, was listed as the sixth suspect for partaking in the gangrape after the teen invited him by saying he could “satisfy his lust”.
Also included in the charge sheet were sub-inspector Anand Dutta and head constable Tilak Raj, two policemen who attempted to cover up the crime using bribes. Instead of collecting evidence, the officers even washed the girl’s dress to derail the investigation.
The high-profile crime sparked a public outcry, with civil society members staging protests alongside students and other youths denouncing the atrocity. Bollywood stars also started #JusticeForOurChild campaign to raise awareness on Twitter.
However, the suspects have also gained support from separatist group Jammu Bar Association and Bhim Singh’s Jammu Kashmir Panthers Party which have been staging rallies “in favor of the rapists and murderers”.
Out of fear from the threats made by the groups supportive of the criminals, the victim’s family secretly abandoned their home in Rasana village, according to Times of India
Feature image via Family of Asifa Bano