An eight-year-old girl was raped and murdered in India by a gang trying to drive away the group of Muslim nomadic herders to which she belonged.
Police say the attack in January in the Kashmir Valley on Asifa Bano had been planned for over a month as a way to terrify the Bakarwals, a Muslim community of nomadic herders, into leaving the area.
The killing has provoked shock and anger across Indian, and exposed the deep cultural divides which still exist between Muslims and Hindus in Kashmir.
Bano was grazing her family’s ponies in the forests of the Himalayan foothills when she was kidnapped.
Her raped and mutilated body was found in the woods a week later.
Asifa Bano was grazing her families ponies when she was abducted by the gang
According to investigators, Asifa was confined in a local Hindu temple for several days.
Forensic reports say she had been drugged with anti-anxiety medication, repeatedly raped, burned, bludgeoned with a rock and strangled.
Eventually, her corpse was thrown into the forest.
Asifa went missing on January 10. At the time her family was living in a village around 45 miles east of Jammu city and two days after her disappearance, the family told the police.
Her body was found five days later and her father Muhammad Yusuf Pujwala told the BBC he was sitting outside his home when one of his neighbours came running towards him.
He stopped in front of Mr Pujwala and broke the news that they had found Asifa Bano.
‘I knew something horrible had happened to my girl,’ Mr Pujwala, the 52-year-old said
His wife Naseema Bii who had rushed to the forest along with her husband to see the body.
‘Her nails had turned black and there were blue and red marks on her arm and fingers.’
Students and others participate in a protest against the rape and murder of Asifa
Other demonstrations have taken place in Jammu into the arrest of the six suspects
Conflict had been brewing in recent years between Muslim nomads and local Hindus over land disputes.
Hindus claimed the herders were encroaching on their lands and there had been scuffles after nomadic girls had been allegedly harassed by Hindu men.
Police say the attack on Asifa was rooted in religious politics, with a group of local men planning to scare away the Bakarwals by simply kidnapping a girl.
But once they had Asifa, that plan was quickly forgotten and she was killed as well.
Seven men and one child have been arrested – including retired government official Sanji Ram, 60, and four police officers.
One of those policemen also allegedly joined in the search for her body. Two other policemen were arrested for attempts to destroy evidence.
According to the charge sheet Ram asked his nephew to kidnap the girl who often came to the forests behind their house for grazing her horses.
An Indian activist holds a placard as she participates in a protest against two recent rapes
The nephew saw the girl asking about her horse and he led her into the forest telling her they were there.
But Asifa sensed trouble and tried to flee, the charges say, and the ‘juvenile caught her by her neck and covered her mouth with one of his hands as she fell on the ground’.
She was then raped by him and other men joined in before she was taken to the temple, where she was kept her inside a prayer hall under the table, covering her with the plastic mats, the charged sheet reads.
The death and police investigation has promoted fierce protests across Kashmir, India, between Hindus and Muslims.
Soon after the suspects were arrested, members of the extremist Hindu Ekta Manch, or Hindu Unity Platform, marched through the streets of Jammu arrying a massive Indian flag, chanting ‘Long Live India!’ and demanding that police release the men.
Indian policewomen try to stop a student activist from crossing a police barricade during the protest
On Monday, Hindu lawyers in Kathua tried to block police from filing their investigation report at the local court.
They said the police investigation was flawed and claimed the six Hindu men accused in the attack had been framed.
The police were forced to call for backup before handing the report of their investigation to the judge at his home.
Kashmir has over 1 million nomadic herders, including the Bakarwals, who mainly tend flocks of sheep, goats and horses.
For centuries they have migrated every summer to highland pastures and forests, and returned to the plains of Jammu in winter to graze their animals, living in temporary shelters.
But over the past 20 years some have begun settling in permanent homes, usually built in forests, sparking conflicts with people already living in those areas.