Congress president Rahul Gandhi will at midnight march at India Gate in New Delhi demanding justice for Asifa, the 8-year-old girl from Jammu and Kashmir’s Kathua, who was brutally gang-raped and murdered.
Amid nationwide debate and uproar over the incident, Rahul Gandhi tweeted: “Like millions of Indians my heart hurts tonight. India simply cannot continue to treat its women the way it does. Join me in a silent, peaceful, candlelight vigil at India Gate at midnight tonight to protest this violence and demand justice.”
The Congress president, earlier today, tweeted: “How can anyone protect the culprits of such evil? What happened to Asifa at #Kathua is a crime against humanity. It cannot go unpunished. What have we become if we allow politics to interfere with such unimaginable brutality perpetrated on an innocent child?”
In January, while Asifa was grazing her horses in a meadow, followed a man into the forest. Days later, Asifa Bano’s small, lifeless body was recovered there.
Police say that Asifa was given sedatives and, for three days, raped several times by different men. Asifa’s strangled body was eventually found Jan. 17, according to a report in The Washington Post. Police say she would have been killed sooner had one man not insisted on waiting so that he could rape her a final time.
To ensure she was dead, Asifa’s killers hit her twice on the head with a stone, according to charging documents filed by police in the state of Jammu and Kashmir and published by the Firstpost.
In the months since, Asifa’s death has brought anguish to Kathua, the small town where she was killed. But it has also brought division. Asifa’s case is the latest example of India’s religious friction: As some denounce sexual violence and demand justice for Asifa’s family, others demand justice for the men accused.
Media reports said the eight men accused in connection to the rape and murder are Hindu. Asifa was a Muslim nomad, part of the Bakarwal tribe. Asifa’s father, Mohammad Yusuf Pujwala, told the New York Times that he believes his daughter was killed by the Hindu men for the sole purpose of driving her people away. To add to the volatility of Asifa’s case, police say she was killed in a Hindu temple, and that the temple’s custodian plotted her death as a way to torment the Bakarwals.