Inaction on 2 rape cases fuels backlash against India’s leader
In a crime that shocked India, an 8-year-old Muslim girl in Jammu and Kashmir was kidnapped in January, drugged, held for several days in Kathua while she was raped multiple times and then murdered, local police said.
In Uttar Pradesh, a state lawmaker from Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party stands accused in a June 2017 rape case in Unnao. No action was taken against the politician until the girl threatened to set herself on fire earlier this month. Her father died soon after from injuries he sustained while in police custody.
The failure of India’s ruling party to act on growing outrage over the two brutal rapes risks eroding Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s support ahead of state and national elections.
On Monday, eight Hindu men accused in the assault in Jammu and Kashmir pleaded not guilty in their first court appearance. Police say the defendants planned the child’s kidnapping for over a month as part of a plan to scare her Muslim nomadic tribe away from the area.
The crimes have drawn comparisons to the 2012 gang rape and murder of a young woman on a New Delhi bus that forced a painful national discussion on violence against women and girls.
Urban voters, especially women — a voter base that stood by Modi in 2014 and largely backed his policies on demonetization and the Goods and Service Tax — have been the largest group protesting the rapes on the streets and social media.
The involvement of men linked to his party in both cases risks eroding the support he’d courted by pushing for election handouts like cooking gas that frees women from unhealthy wood fires and outlawing so-called instant divorce in Muslim communities.
Modi, who spoke out on Friday after a week of intense media coverage, was criticized for not immediately addressing the issue.
Demonstrators near Mumbai, India, demand justice Monday after the sexual assaults of two girls — including one who was slain in Jammu and Kashmir state.