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Quit India - Thousands seeking Justice for baby Asifa ask rapists

Friday April 13, 2018 9:22 AM, News Network

India Gate Candlelight Vigil

New Delhi: Holding candles in their hands, thousands of men and women Thursday midnight thronged the iconic India Gate in New Delhi and demanded from the government to take immediate action against the rapists and killers of baby Asifa.

Earlier, Congress President Rahul Gandhi had appealed people to join him for the candlelight vigil for baby Asifa - the 08-year-old girl who was kidnapped, sedated and gang raped for multiple days before being brutally murdered in Kathua, Jammu & Kashmir.

The protesters led by Rahul Gandhi and other Congress leaders who were also joined by Priyanka Gandhi were holding placard which asked the rapists to quit India. "Balatkariyo Bharat Chodo" - they raised the slogan referring to the Quit India Movement during the country's freedom struggle.

Citing "Beti Bachao Beti Padhao" - Prime Minister Modi's pet project, the protesters showed placard reading "High Time for government to decide - Beti Bacha, Ya balatkari bachao."

Along with Asifa, the protesters were also demanding justice for the rape victim in Unnao, Uttar Pradesh. Names of some BJP legislators are being figured in the case. "One after the other, women are attacked and girls are raped. But, the government is silent. My only demand is that the government should work to create an atmosphere where women and girls of this country can live peacefully and without any fear", Rahul Gandhi said while talking to reporters.

The body of eight-year-old Asifa, a nomad Muslim girl, was recovered from Rasana forest in Kathua district on January 17, a week after she went missing while grazing her family’s ponies. The girl was held captive, sedated and raped for several days at a local temple before she was murdered, according to the Jammu & Kashmir Police Crime Branch investigation based on DNA test, forensic evidence and post-mortem report.

Further investigation found the involvement of, among others, some senior police officers including former revenue official and alleged mastermind Sanji Ram (60). Sanji Ram surrendered before the crime branch on March 20 after his son Vishal was arrested from Uttar Pradesh, Greater Kashmir reported. A police constable and a sub-inspector were also arrested after the crime branch found they allegedly tried to destroy evidence after the crime.

Justice for Asifa

According to the charge sheet, Sanji Ram had ordered his nephew and a policeman to kidnap the girl, Asifa, in to terrorise members of her nomadic Bakerwal community into leaving Kathua district in the mainly Hindu Jammu division. The girl was heavily sedated, kept in a Hindu temple, and gang raped by at least three men over the course of four days in mid-January. She was later strangled and her body was found in the forest near the temple.

Another officer, Anand Dutta, who was initially in charge of the investigation, took more than $6,000 in bribes to cover up the crime, according to the police. Dutta even washed the clothes Asifa was wearing at the time of her death to remove any blood or semen stains, the charge sheet said.

However, right wing Hindu organisations reportedly supported by local BJP leaders are trying to communalize the incident. A group by the name of Hindu Ekta Manch was formed after the arrests of the Police Officers in order to save the accused by communalising the issue. According to reports, two senior BJP ministers Chandra Prakash Gupta and Lal Singh attended a rally organised by the Hindu Ekta Manch and directed the police not to make any more arrests. “What if a girl has died? Many girls have died here”, BJP minister Lal Singh has reportedly said.

Taking the same line, lawyers protested against the police and blocked the court in Kathua, Jammu, to prevent the Jammu and Kashmir Police Crime Branch from filing the chargesheet in the case. The protesting lawyers were demanding that the case be transferred to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) for a probe instead of being handle by the Jammu and Kashmir investigative authorities. After the protest outside the Kathua court, members of the Bar Association called a press release saying that all Bar members "strongly condemn the conduct of the Crime Branch in dealing with the issue."

The police however filed the chargesheet despite the resistance by the lawyers. "We’ve filed charge sheet against seven accused persons and charge sheet against a juvenile person will be filed separately,” Inspector General of Police (Crime Branch) Afhadul Mujtaba said, adding “There was some resistance and that has been tackled”.

The protest by Hindu Ekta Manch and Kathua Bar Association had on Thursday invited widespread anger from all across including on Twitter and #JusticeforAsifa was among the top trends of the day on the microblogging website.

"This beautiful baby haunts me. Perhaps every parent is similarly affected? The pig tails, the innocence... sedated, raped, head bashed in? Devastating to even think about. Citizens of India, where are we going?" noted journalist Sagarika Ghose wrote on Twitter.

Rajdeep Sardesai expressed his anguish in these words: "We have found a double pumpkin for the day; Nandakumar Chauhan, BJP MP from Khandwa says Asifa rape and murder is Pakistan 'conspiracy'. Utterly crazy, shameless and insensitive remarks."

Using her verified Twitter account, bollywood star Anushka Sharma wrote, "The cruelest form of evil is harming an innocent child. What is happening to the world we live in??? These people should be given the most severe punishment there is! Where are we heading as humanity?"

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