A candlelight vigil in protest in New Delhi of Kathua and Unnao rape
A candlelight vigil in protest in New Delhi of Kathua and Unnao rapeIANS

The gang rape and murder of a tribal girl in Kathua has brought the entire nation, usually divided by religion, caste and creed, together in protest. The eight-year-old from Kathua, a city in the north Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir, was gang raped for days and brutally murdered January 13.

India has been outraged since the news of the brutality broke and people have been taking to the streets in protest and to demand justice for the little girl. Congress president Rahul Gandhi led a candlelight march to India Gate in New Delhi at midnight in support of the girl and demanded justice for the eight-year-old.

The midnight march saw scores of people joining Rahul and his sister Priyanka and mother Sonia Gandhi were also in attendance. Robert Vadra, Congress leaders, and other party workers also took part in the midnight march and raised slogans against the brutality as well as the alleged inaction of the BJP government.

Rahul Gandhi candlelight march against Kathua rape
Rahul Gandhi leads a candlelight vigil to protest incidents of rape in Unnao and KathuaIANS

"Wherever we see, woman and children are getting raped and murdered. We want the government to act. This is a national issue, not a political matter," NDTV quoted Rahul as saying.

While this was meant to be a "silent march," there was quite some commotion and Priyanka reportedly lost her cool. She was heard lashing out at the crowd and said: "Nobody will push each other. You should know the reason for which you are here. If you cannot behave go home. Now, all of you will silently walk till there," according to ANI.

Kathua Rape Fact File

  1. In January, retired revenue official Sanji Ram hatches a plan to drive away the Bakarwal tribe from the Rasana area in Kathua.
  2. He discusses the matter with his nephew and provoked him to take revenge on the tribe, who had earlier assaulted him.
  3. The nephew agrees to kidnap the little girl and shares his plans with his friend Parvesh Kumar.
  4. The two then buy local substances to sedate the girl.
  5. Ram and his nephew then abduct the girl and take her to a nearby forest where she is sedated and raped by the nephew, a minor.
  6. They then lock her in a temple. The nephew then calls Ram's son Vishal Jangotra in Meerut and asks him if he wants to rape her.
  7. Her family file a police complaint and the hunt for the eight-year-old begins
  8. Vishal reaches Rasana. He and the nephew rape the girl. The little girl was raped multiple times, even by police officer Deepak Khajuria.
  9. She is then strangulated and the nephew hits her head with a stone twice. Her body is then dumped in the jungle.
  10. Her body is found by a local January 17.

Who are the Bakarwal tribe?

The Bakarwals are a Sunni Muslim nomadic tribe, mostly found in the Pir Panjal and Himalayan ranges of South Asia. They are mostly shepherds and goatherds and many of them reside in Kashmir and India and also a few places in Pakistan. Many of the Bakarwals are also found in the Nuristan province of Afghanistan.

The name Bakarwal is derived from the word bakra, which means a goat. The term Bakarwal is used to refer to the one who takes care of the herds.

The Bakarwal tribe is mostly on the move for about 150 days a year and hence live in nuclear families. The women mostly perform the usual household chores such as cooking, washing, the collection of wood, taking care of children, spinning and making woolen garments, while men are known to herd cattle, tend to fields, plough, and harvest crops.

The Bakarwals were granted the status of a scheduled tribe (ST) in India 1991 and also receive a mention in the Afghan national anthem.