India court convicts six in gang rape, murder of Kashmiri girl, 8

All the seven accused in Kathua rape case have arrived at the special court in Pathankot. The judge has also arrived

All the seven accused in Kathua rape case have arrived at the special court in Pathankot. The judge has also arrived

Six men have been found guilty of the gang rape and murder of an 8-year-old girl in Kathua in Jammu and Kashmir last year, and one has been acquitted for lack of evidence. This was not easy because the local police had been bribed by one of the convicts to tamper with evidence; they had even washed the young victim's clothes to destroy material evidence. "It was disturbing to see people protest for the accused, these people were misguided".

The investigation had revealed that the rape and murder were systematic, preplanned and rooted in religious hatred harboured by Sanji Ram, a Hindu, against the Muslim nomadic community of Bakarwals - a tribal community.

The case sparked violent protests in Jammu, a Hindu-dominated region of Jammu and Kashmir, in April 2018.

One of the prosecution lawyers, Mubeen Farooq, also said that they would pursue capital punishment for the guilty.

There is also a juvenile accused in the case, who can not be named by law and is subjected to a different process of trial and punishment. "Our hearts are bleeding", the girl's father, Mohammed Akhtar, told The Associated Press after the court's decision was announced.

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The chargesheet said the girl had gone missing while grazing horses.

Former IAS officer and president Jammu and Kashmir Peoples Movement (JKPM) Shah Faesal called it a victory of truth over falsehood.

CNN reports the convicted men locked the victim inside a Hindu temple for five days where she was drugged and repeatedly raped, before being strangled and bludgeoned to death with a rock.

Some criticized the sentences as not harsh enough. Advocates say that the majority of rape cases remain unreported.

Following the incident, the Indian Parliament introduce a new law last August which mandated the death penalty to anyone convicted of raping a child under 12.

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But it is still left to the judge's discretion to decide whether or not to hand out a death sentence.

Much like the high-profile 2012 gang rape of a paramedical student on a bus in New Delhi, the Kathua case galvanized and horrified India, which has long grappled with the problem of sexual violence against women and girls.

The case had led to major outrage across the country previous year. The trial against the juvenile is yet to begin as his petition on determining his age still must be heard by the Jammu and Kashmir High Court.

Jammu: It was like looking for a needle in a haystack till an unusual sweat on Sanji Ram's face on a chilly January morning hinted he was hiding something, recalls R K Jalla - the chief investigator in the rape and murder case of an 8-year old girl in Kathua.

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