A court yesterday convicted six Hindu men, including four police officials, in connection with the rape and murder of an 8-year-old Muslim girl in Indian-controlled Kashmir, a case that has that has exacerbated communal tensions in the disputed region.
Judge Tejwinder Singh found at least some of the six guilty of rape and murder, but it was not immediately known if all of them were. The judge acquitted another defendant due to lack of evidence.
The girl, who was a member of the nomadic tribe, was grazing her family’s ponies in the forests of the Himalayan foothills when she was kidnapped in January 2018. Her mutilated body was found in the woods a week later.
The case sparked protests across Kashmir, a Muslim-majority region where rebels have been fighting for years for independence or unification with Pakistan and there is great distrust of the government. Thousands of members of a radical Hindu group, meanwhile, had demanded the release of the defendants, saying that they were innocent.
The trial was shifted to neighboring Punjab state following accusations that local Hindu leaders and politicians were trying to block the investigation into the case.
The prosecution said the girl was raped in captivity in a small village temple in Kathua district after having been kept sedated for four days before she was bludgeoned to death.
The girl’s father, Mohammed Akhtar, told The Associated Press by phone that the men should be “punished speedily, not just convicted.”
“Our family has gone through hell,” he said. “Our hearts are bleeding. These beasts should be hanged.”
The men were expected to be sentenced later yesterday.
India has been shaken by a series of sexual assaults in recent years, including the gang rape and murder of a student on a New Delhi bus in 2012. That attack galvanized a country where widespread violence against women had long been quietly accepted.
While the government has passed a series of laws increasing punishment for rape, it’s rare for more than a few weeks to pass without another brutal sexual assault being reported. Aijaz Hussain, Srinagar, AP