KATHMANDU: Investigation over the gang-rape and cold-blooded murder of an eight-year-old girl has highlighted religious tensions in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir. Asifa Bano, an eight year old was grazing horses on January 10 in Kathua, a district of Jammu and Kashmir, when a farm-worker lured her away. She was confined in a small Hindu temple, drugged, raped for five days by a group of men and later strangled, killed with a rock. Little Asifa Bano's body was found, lifeless, on January 18. Asifa's father Muhammad Yusuf Pujwala told BBC that he was sitting outside his home when his neighbour came running towards him, with the news of Asifa being found, albeit dead. According to the state police, the attack in January was a pre-planned one, as a way to terrify the nomadic Muslim herders into leaving the area. Temple custodian Sanji Ram, a staunch opponent of the settlement of the Muslim tribe, has been held as the major planner of the horrific crime. However, the arrest of Ram, his co-perpetrators and police officers has made way for the region to split along religious lines. According to the BBC, the story made national headlines this week after Hindu right-wing groups protested the arrest of the accused, who also belonged to a Hindu community. Protests are now rife in Hindu-majority Jammu where lawyers tried stopping the police from filing a charge sheet and two ministers from the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party were seen supporting the accused in a rally. People have taken to the streets protesting the rape and eventual murder and demanding justice for the victim while leader of the main opposition party, Indian National Congress, Rahul Gandhi led a march against the rape at midnight on Thursday. Meanwhile, social media users, from across the globe, from all walks of life, have condemned and expressed rage over the incident, through hashtags #JusticeForAsifa #Asifa #Kathua which instantly gained momentum.

(Cover image: BBC)