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A horror story beyond belief

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The rape and murder of 8-year old nomad girl-Asifa-in Kathua is not just another isolated or routine incident that India is prone to. In India after every 30 minutes a woman is raped or molested in one or the other part of the country. But the Asifa’s case is a horror story beyond usual sexual violence in India. The 15-page charge sheet the investigating agency Crime Branch of Jammu and Kashmir Police filed in the court has heart-wrenching details. It was a premeditated and pre-planned crime committed with an aim to scare away the Muslim nomads residing in the area. It is quite disgusting to note that a religious place (Hindu temple) was used for committing the crime. According to charge sheet, Sanji Ram, the temple’s custodian, devised the plan as a way to terrorize the Bakarwals, and that he enlisted a nephew and some friends to kidnap and kill Asifa. Police say they believe Asifa was selected simply because she was by herself and “a soft target.” Asifa was kept captive in a temple where she was sedated, raped and later murdered. All this happened under the watch of temple custodian Sanji Ram. His son, nephew and a special police officer Deepak Khajuria are alleged to have raped the girl multiple times for around a week. She was not given any food during this period, and instead was put on sedatives to ensure that she would not cry out loud when tormented, not even when she was strangled. Words fall short of describing the bestiality and savagery the hapless girl had undergone. When she was taken out of the temple to execute the plan to kill her, Deepak Khauria, the main accused, asked them to wait as he wanted to rape the girl once more before she was killed. She was raped ‘one last time’ just before hitting her with a stone twice on her head to ensure she was dead. Days later, Asifa’s crumpled body was found in the forest, in the same purple dress, now smeared with blood. But in the months since Asifa’s murder, the case has become another battleground in India’s religious wars. Hindu extremists have rallied around the rape-accused and have publicly demonstrated support for them. Several BJP leaders and minister (two) besides hundreds of middle-rung Congress leaders and activists sided with the rape-accused. Some days back, a mob of Hindu lawyers physically blocked police officers from entering a courthouse to file charges against the men. The officers retreated to a judge’s house later in the evening to complete the paperwork. Protests and counter-protests are now spreading. Jammu city reeled under a protest shutdown on Wednesday at the call of High Bar Association. The shutdown had the support of all major political parties including Congress and the BJP (though covertly) besides business and traders associations. However, the light at the end of the tunnel was the angry response by media and civil societies across India against the ghastly incident and its sponsors. The TV news channels have virtually launched a campaign (for justice for Asifa) and have driven the BJP, which is seen as protecting the rape-accused for mere religious considerations on the mat. o. It is sad on the part of the Prime Minister Narendra Modi that he is yet to react or comment on the barbaric incident. Social media, while mocking at the Prime Minister’s much-publicized “Beti Bachao” (Save Girl child) slogan, has reframed it as BJP’s warning to parents—Beti Bacha. Congress President Rahul Gandhi has termed the rape and murder of the powerless girl as “unimaginable Brutality and crime against humanity”. But this only speaks of the hypocrisy Congress stands for. The Congress party is as supportive of the perpetrators of the crime as BJP. The Jammy High Court Bar President, who is spearheading the campaign to protect the rape-accused is a know Congress man. The Congress also supported the general shutdown in Jammu on Wednesday in support of the rape accused. Chief minister Mahbooba Mufti deserves a word of appreciation for, so far, showing determination and not succumbing to any pressure from any quarter. It is real test of nerves for the chief minister. She should rather take more courageous stand and sack BJP ministers—Lal Singh and Chandra Prakash Ganga—for giving communal colour to a criminal case and supporting the rapists and murders.