Saturday, February 23, 2019 | 8:55 AM

Kathua rape-and-murder: Conspiracy has worked; No Muslims left in Rasana now

Friday, April 20, 2018

In early March, Crime Branch told J&K High Court that rape-and-murder of the 8-year-old Aasifa Bano was not an ordinary crime but a large conspiracy to dislodge Bakerwal (nomad) Muslims from Rasana Village, who graze their cattle in the hills in the summer months.

Nearly a month and half later, no Muslims are left in the village of Rasana, which has become a symbol of rape crisis after the brutal murder of the Muslim girl by Hindu men in January this year.
Police say the girl was raped and killed as part of an attempt by some of the village´s majority Hindus to evict Bakarwal Muslim nomads, who graze their cattle in the hills in the summer months.

It seems to have worked: the girl’s family headed for Kashmir hills under police protection. Other Muslim families in the community of around 100 people all left after the rape in January.

At the empty home of the dead girl’s family, five armed police kept guard half asleep in chairs outside.

Crime Branch say the child was drugged, held captive in a Hindu temple for five days, and repeatedly raped before being beaten to death.

Her anonymous grave in orange earth partially covered by weeds is in a nearby village in Kathua, about 60 kilometres from the region’s main city of Jammu. The Hindus in Rasana even refused to allow the girl to be buried there. In occupied Kashmir, the Jammu region in the south is dominated by Hindus.

The rape went virtually unnoticed in India until Hindu lawyers staged protests outside a Jammu court last week trying to stop police registering the charge sheet. Hindu right-wing groups say the investigation is biased.

In Rasana, the village’s few remaining inhabitants are reluctant to speak to outsiders.

 “Since all this happened, the village has emptied,” according to 39-year-old Yash Paul Sharma, a rare resident willing to talk.

He said Rasana had gone through a nightmare as the place of the killing and the intense scrutiny it has faced since.

The main accused in the case is Sanji Ram, a leader of the rustic pink temple in Rasana where the girl was held captive.

A minor and a local police constable are among those charged with the killing, while three police officials have been charged with accepting bribes to cover up the case.

Outside the temple, a group of six Muslims had driven six hours from Punjab state in an effort to donate money to the girl’s family.

The killing reflects the hostility encouraged by the Hindu nationalist government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, said Mubeen Farooqi, head of the group. “But now India’s mind is changing with this episode and everyone stands against this sick mentality,” he said, according to an international news agency.

The few Muslims who have remained in villages around Rasana are worried. Kaniza Begum, a mother of six, is fearful of allowing her 10-year-old daughter to play in the nearby fields.

 “She is no longer allowed outside. If she goes to school, her brother escorts her.”