The girl, just eight years old, was grazing her family’s ponies on a chilly January day in the forests of the Himalayan foothills when she was kidnapped. Her raped and mutilated body was found in the woods a week later.
“Punish the killer of Kathua’s Asifa Bano,” read a banner being carried by the participants of the demonstration. “United Nations should immediately take stock of the Indian army’s atrocities on the children of Jammu and Kashmir,” it added.
Girls participating in the rally were holding placards, a majority of which depicted the young victim of Hindu fanatics’ savagery with a demand for justice for her.
“India is killer of Kashmiri children”, “Wake up UN, wake up”, read some placards.
The girls, many of whom were wearing black headbands inscribed with ‘Justice for Asifa,’ stood up in a circle during their silent protest at a bustling roundabout in Muzaffarabad.
“India has turned the entire occupied territory into a living hell… But this incident is so shocking and grisly that words fail to describe it…More painful are the attempts by India’s fanatic ruling party to hush up the brutal act, which testifies how savagely the Indian government is victimising Kashmiri Muslims, regardless of their cast and ethnic affiliations,” said Iqra Awan, a pre-medical student from a Kashmiri refugees’ camp.
“While this case has come to fore by mere chance, I am afraid the way Hindu extremists are tyrannising the Muslim population in occupied Jammu region, there may have occurred many similar unreported incidents in that area,” she added.
Among the protestors was Rabia Mushtaq, a teacher at a private school, who said she was filled with indignation at the latest of a series of hate crimes committed by occupation forces and their myrmidons.
“From Kunan Poshpora to Shopian to Kathua, India occupied territory has seen one after the other heart-wrenching story of rape having been used as a weapon of war by Indian troops or Hindu extremists in efforts aimed at persecution and ethnic cleansing of Muslims,” she said.
Scores of women, 100 according to some estimates, were raped in the twin villages of Kunan and Poshpora in Kupwara district in February 1991 by a group of Indian soldiers, while two young women — Neelofar Jan and her sister in law Aasiya Jan — were raped and murdered in Shopian district by the Indian army in May 2009.
However, none of them has been prosecuted for the heinous crime to this day.
Some placards at the demonstration also referred to Neelofar and Aasiya, seeking justice for them as well.