She was an eight-year-old girl, who, while grazing her horses in a meadow in northern India in January, followed a man into the forest. Days later, Asifa Bano’s small, lifeless body was recovered there.
Police say that Asifa was given sedatives and for three days, raped several times by different men. Asifa was eventually strangled on 17 January, something police say would have happened sooner had one man not insisted on waiting, so that he could rape her a final time.
To ensure she was dead, Asifa’s killers hit her twice on the head with a stone, according to charging documents filed by police in the state of Jammu and Kashmir and published by the Indian news website Firstpost.
In the months since, Asifa’s death has brought anguish to Kathua, the small town where she was killed. But it’s also brought division. Asifa’s case is the latest example of India’s religious friction: as some denounce sexual violence and demand justice for Asifa’s family, others demand justice for the men accused.
The eight men accused of raping and killing Asifa are Hindu. Asifa was a Muslim nomad, part of the Bakarwal tribe. Asifa’s father, Mohammad Yusuf Pujwala, told The New York Times that he believes his daughter was killed by the Hindu men for the sole purpose of driving her people away. To add to the volatility of Asifa’s case, police say she was killed in a Hindu temple and that the temple’s custodian plotted her death as a way to torment the Bakarwals.