In­ac­tion on 2 rape cases fu­els back­lash against In­dia’s leader

Orlando Sentinel - - NATION & WORLD -

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.

DIVYAKANT SOLANKI/EPA

De­mon­stra­tors near Mum­bai, In­dia, de­mand jus­tice Mon­day af­ter the sex­ual as­saults of two girls — in­clud­ing one who was slain in Jammu and Kash­mir state.

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