Hate crime of a young girl inflames religious tensions in northern India

Hate Crime

The vicious hate crime gang rape and murder of an eight-year-old Muslim girl, in the northern Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir, has provoked religious tensions and stirred widespread protests, in a case that is threatening to further destabilize an already restless region.

But it was the shocking details that developed accompanying a police investigation made public this month that has seen the case reach nationwide concern.

Police say the young girl, who belonged to a Muslim nomadic society identified as the Bakarwals, was kidnapped while grazing horses in a meadow on January 12.

From there, it is alleged she was taken to a Hindu temple, where she was sedated and kept hostage for five days. During that time, police claim she was raped repeatedly by several different men, before being murdered and disposed of in a nearby forest on January 17.

Postmortem records determined that she had been strangled to death. Police have arrested eight men in connection with the death of the girl, including a retired government officer and three police officials.

But rather than quell tensions, the sudden police action has had the opposite effect, transforming the incident into a lightning rod for radical sectarian hatred.

The arrested, all whom are Hindu, have seen their case picked up by an unlikely coalition of religious nationalists and legitimate professionals, who collectively have started a campaign to have the charges dropped and the case passed over to federal investigators.

At the center of the controversy is a dispute over the equality of the local law enforcement agents, who supporters of the arrested believe are biased, owing to their Muslim faith.

Tensions rose to heights last week when violent protests broke out outside the local courthouse, as representatives of the state bar association sought to physically stop police from filing charges against the arrested.

Assisted by a right-wing Hindu nationalist group called the Hindu Unity Council, the state bar association is now requesting that the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) take over the case.

“We demand a CBI investigation. The investigation is not based on correct data. The victim and the arrested are being linked to religion,” declared B.S. Slathia, president of the Jammu Bar Association.

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