She was grazing her horses in a meadow

Asifa Bano.

Asifa Bano was 8 years old and wearing a purple salwar kameez when she disappeared on Jan. 10.

A week later, on Jan. 17, her mutilated and lifeless body was found in a forest near Kathua in the Indian-controlled region of Kashmir. It was a mile away from Rasana, the village where her family was currently living.

Reports say she was abducted while grazing her horses in a meadow, taken to a prayer hall nearby, sedated for three days, tortured and brutally gang-raped. She was eventually strangled and hit on the head several times with a stone to ensure that she was dead.

On Wednesday, graphic details of the crime and its perpetrators emerged in a charge sheet filed by the Jammu and Kashmir state police. Its contents sparked massive outrage across the country. People gathered for candlelight vigils in protest. And using the hashtag #JusticeForAsifa on social media, citizens are condemning the crime and encouraging each other to speak up to authorities.

Her family is Muslim; there is tension between Muslims and Hindus in the area. (Kashmir has been tense af since Partition, from what I can tell.)

Indians were furious that politicians were silent over the issue and that some locals even defended the accused, since they were Hindu. Two Bharatiya Janata Party ministers from India’s ruling party, who seek to preserve Hindu ideals, even attended a rally to support the accused. They have since resigned.

“Who seek to preserve Hindu ideals” is a very anodyne way of describing the BJP. It’s neither that simple nor that benign.

It seems the country had not learned its lesson after the brutal gang rape and death of physiotherapy student Jyothi Singh in 2012, says Jasodhara Dasgupta, human rights activist and founder of SAHAYOG, an advocacy group for gender equality and women’s rights based in Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh.

“We thought we had made progress in preventing violence against women, but this is a cruel reminder of how little has changed,” she says.

Laws against sexual violence aren’t enough, says Jayshree Bajoria, author of the Human Rights Watch report Everyone Blames Me—Barriers to Justice and support Services for Sexual Assault Survivors in India — they must also be enforced. “Police often try to shield influential perpetrators. And there are numerous instances in which victims are unduly pressured to withdraw complaints. We are clearly lacking in fair, transparent, time-bound investigations,” she says.

Asifa Bano.

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