The event took place in the small town of Kathua, in the southern Jammu province where Hindus compose the majority of the community. The northern part of the state is comprised of the Indian-administered portion of the disputed Kashmir region, which is controlled by Muslims.
The nomadic community the girl belonged to have traditionally moved between the two regions, traveling to Jammu with their livestock during the winter months, before returning to the Kashmir region when the snow melts in the spring.
In defending the Hindu Unity Council’s defense of the accused, Vijay Sharma, the council’s leader, declared the state government had adopted a soft viewpoint on the region’s minority Muslim community.
The number of Muslims has increased in recent years, due to the arrival of several thousand Rohingya refugees from Myanmar. “We are already a sensitive state and they [Muslims] are a menace and their population is expanding,” declared Sharma, adding that the case was complex and “a mix of four or five issues that involve the whole state.”
Law enforcement, however, maintains that they have concrete evidence against the arrested, a hate crime who they declare plotted the girl’s kidnapping as a means of terrorizing the predominately-Muslim nomads into abandoning the region.
“Are there no local Hindu police officers who are qualified? The girl is a Muslim and the investigators are Muslim,” replied Rakesh Singh, a local BJP leader. Singh maintains that the men arrested are innocent and that a separate investigation should be opened.
Amid the difference, there have been increasing requests for Modi to speak out on the matter. On Thursday, VK Singh, a junior foreign minister in Modi’s government, affirmed the victim would not be denied justice, revealing on Twitter that, “We have failed [her] as humans.”
Opposition parties have rounded on the BJP for not producing enough, with Rahul Gandhi, head of the Indian National Congress, leading a candlelight vigil in New Delhi Thursday night for justice in both this case and another ongoing rape incident in BJP-ruled Uttar Pradesh state.
Gandhi was accompanied by more than a thousand individuals displaying banners and posters. “How can anyone defend the culprits of such evil?” declared Gandhi in a comment delivered on social media.
The Jammu and Kashmir state government, headed by the chief minister, Mehbooba Mufti has steadfastly rejected allegations that appropriate measures have been skirted during the investigation. Modi’s BJP is part of the state government.
“The law will not be interfered by the thoughtless actions and statements of a group of individuals,” she announced on Twitter.