Rahul Gandhi Breaks Silence On Asifa Case, Plans Midnight March In Delhi

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Asifa Rape: The 8-year-old was kidnapped when she was grazing horses near her home on January 10.

New Delhi:  Rahul Gandhi today broke his silence on the rape and murder of an eight-year-old girl in Kathua in Jammu and Kashmir amid nationwide horror over chilling details of the three-month-old crime revealed by a police charge-sheet. He has also planned a candle-light march at Delhi's India Gate at midnight. The Congress president had been called out on social media for not speaking up even as the party's leaders in Jammu appeared to back protests in support of those arrested in little Asifa Bano's killing.

"How can anyone protect the culprits of such evil? What happened to Asifa at #Kathua is a crime against humanity. It cannot go unpunished. What have we become if we allow politics to interfere with such unimaginable brutality perpetrated on an innocent child?" Rahul Gandhi tweeted.

Earlier today, Union Minister VK Singh also added his voice to the spiraling outrage over Asifa's gang-rape and murder. "We have failed Asifa as humans. But she will not be denied justice," tweeted the former army chief, the first minister in the BJP-led central government to talk about justice for the child who suffered unspeakable cruelty in her last few days.

The response of the BJP and the Congress in Jammu and Kashmir has been largely political in what has become the trigger for communal polarisation.

Another union minister Jitendra Singh, who represents a part of Kathua in parliament, had last month said, "those who have not done anything wrong should be given justice", backing demands for a CBI inquiry from those who support the arrested men.

Asifa was kidnapped when she was grazing horses near her home on January 10, kept sedated and gang-raped repeatedly for days by a group that included police officers. She was drugged and not given food the entire time. Just before her head was bashed in with a rock, one of the police officers asked the killer to wait so he could rape the child one more time, according to the police charge-sheet submitted in court.

Among the eight arrested men is a retired revenue department official who planned the crime to instill fear among the Bakherwal nomads - Asifa was one of them - and drive them out of the Rassana area. They were a small group of Muslim families living in a Hindu-dominated area. 

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Rahul Gandhi had been called out on social media for not speaking up. (File)

The others are special police officers Deepak Khajuria and Surender Verma, Sanji Ram's son Vishal, who travelled all the way from Meerut in Uttar Pradesh after being invited to "satisfy his lust", Sanji Ram's 19-year-old nephew and his friend.The child's mutilated body was found in the forests on January 17. As her community demanded action, two policemen tried to help the accused by manipulating the evidence. Her family and relatives were not allowed to bury her body in what they believed was their land, by Hindu families. 
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Two state BJP ministers attended a rally organised in support of the accused.

Protests against the murder have deeply polarized the region and have become another point of conflict between ruling coalition partners Mehbooba Mufti and BJP.  Yesterday, Ms Mufti, the Chief Minister, met Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh and accused the BJP's state leadership of creating trouble in state.

Two state BJP ministers attended a rally organised in support of the accused. So did the Jammu and Kashmir Bar association, which is led by a Congress supporter.