Six convicted over rape, murder of eight-year-old Indian girl

Police personnel stand guard outside a court in Pathankot, India as the verdict on the case of rape and murder of a Muslim girl is to be delivered on June 10, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 10 June 2019

Six convicted over rape, murder of eight-year-old Indian girl

  • Sexual violence, including against children, is rife in India
  • India has the death penalty for the most brutal murders and terror attacks

PATHANKOT, India: Six men were convicted Monday over the notorious 2018 gang rape and murder in India of an eight-year-old girl from a Muslim nomadic tribe that provoked horror and stoked inter-religious tensions.
Sexual violence, including against children, is rife in India and outrage over the so-called Kathua case contributed to the government introducing the death penalty for child rapists.
According to the charge sheet, the girl was abducted while she was out grazing horses and taken to a village in the Kathua district of the northern Indian region of Jammu on January 10 last year.
In an ordeal lasting five days, she was sedated and held in a Hindu temple, repeatedly raped and then strangled and bludgeoned to death.
Investigations suggested that the girl was targeted in order to strike fear in her nomad community and drive them out of the area.
The six Hindu men were due to be sentenced later, prosecution lawyer Mubeen Farooqui told reporters outside a special court in Pathankot, in Punjab state.
They face the death penalty with a minimum of life imprisonment. A seventh man was acquitted while an eighth person, who claims to be underage, faces a separate trial.
“We will appeal against the convictions in a higher court,” defense lawyer H.S. Pathania said.
Among the three convicted for rape and murder were village head Sanjhi Ram and special police officer Deepak KHajjuria. Three others were found guilty of taking bribes and destroying evidence, but still face life imprisonment under strict conspiracy laws.
India has the death penalty for the most brutal murders and terror attacks. The last execution happened in 2015 over bombings in Mumbai in 1993.
The Kathua case sparked two days of violent protests in Jammu and demonstrations in several other places across India, including in New Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore.
The ruling right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party also drew flak after two of its members participated in rallies in support of the accused.
The protests were reminiscent of those that followed the fatal gang rape of a Delhi student on a bus in 2012 that made headlines around the world.
The Supreme Court had shifted the Kathua trial to Punjab after the girl’s family and their lawyer complained of death threats.
Sexual violence, including against children, remains unabated in India. Nearly 20,000 child rape cases were reported in 2016, according to official data, while a 2014 UN report said one in three rape victims was a minor.
Jammu and Kashmir is India’s only Muslim-majority state, but the southern Jammu region — where the rape and murder took place — is Hindu-dominated.
On Monday hundreds of police were on duty in Pathankot for the trial. Wary of new protests, security was also heavy in Kathua town and surrounding Muslim areas.


Protests flare as India’s parliament set to vote on citizenship bill

Updated 12 min 10 sec ago

Protests flare as India’s parliament set to vote on citizenship bill

  • Police in Assam’s main city of Guwahati used water cannons and tear gas as they clashed with protesters
  • The US Commission on International Religious Freedom said on Monday that Washington should consider sanctions against Shah, a close associate of Modi
NEW DELHI: India’s ruling Hindu nationalists pushed for final parliamentary approval on Wednesday for a law that critics say undermines the country’s secular constitution by granting citizenship to non-Muslim minorities from three neighboring countries.

Having obtained assent from the lower house of parliament a day earlier, Home Minister Amit Shah tabled the Citizenship Amendment Bill in the upper house and a vote is expected late on Wednesday.

Opposition parties, minority groups, academics and a US federal panel have contested the proposed law, which would for the first time provide a legal route to Indian citizenship based on religion, calling it discriminatory against Muslims.

The bill seeks to give citizenship to Buddhists, Christians, Hindus, Jains, Parsis and Sikhs, who fled Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan before 2015.

Protests against the bill turned violent on Wednesday in India’s ethnically diverse northeastern region, with the army deploying troops in Tripura state and putting reinforcements on standby in neighboring Assam, where police battled thousands of protesters.

Police in Assam’s main city of Guwahati used water cannons and tear gas as they clashed with protesters, who had blocked roads with flaming tires.

“The bill will take away our rights, language and culture with millions of Bangladeshis getting citizenship,” said Gitimoni Dutta, a college student at the protest.

Despite Shah’s assurances that safeguards will be put in place, people in Assam and surrounding states fear an influx of settlers could lead to a competition for land and upset the region’s demographic balance.

In northern India, thousands of students at Aligarh Muslim University began a hunger strike in protest.

Some opposition Muslim politicians have argued that the bill is targeted against the community, accusing the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi for trying to render them “stateless.”

The US Commission on International Religious Freedom said on Monday that Washington should consider sanctions against Shah, a close associate of Modi, if India adopts the legislation.

Introducing the bill in the upper house, Shah defended his government’s move, saying the new law only sought to help minorities persecuted in Muslim-majority countries contiguous with India.

“For India’s Muslims, there is nothing to worry about, nothing to debate. They are citizens, and will remain citizens,” Shah said.

Unlike the lower house, where Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has a clear majority, the ruling party will likely find it more challenging to push the bill through the upper house, as it is unclear whether it can garner enough support from regional parties.