New Delhi : An Indian court has sentenced three men to life imprisonment on Monday for the kidnap, rape and murder of an eight-year-old Muslim girl in Jammu and Kashmir state last year, in a high-profile case that sparked widespread protests across the country. Three other men have each received five years in prison for destruction of evidence.
Special prosecutor Santokh Singh said in a statement to reporters outside the court in Pathankot, Punjab state, that they would be appealing the sentences passed against the accused, along with the acquittal of another man.
“The court has given the benefit of doubt to that man. And the prosecution side is definitely going to file an appeal against the acquittal… We are also filing an appeal in the other cases too for the announcement of the sentence,” said Singh.
Another accused, who has been charged as a juvenile is undergoing a separate trial.
The victim, who belonged to a Muslim nomadic group known as the Bakarwals and whose identity is protected by Indian law, was abducted while she was alone in a field grazing horses in the town of Kathua in Jammu.
The convicted men, all of whom are Hindu, 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. Her body was later discovered in a nearby forest.
The initial arrests of the men, who prosecutors said plotted the girl’s abduction as a means of scaring the predominately-Muslim nomads into vacating the region, proved to be a lightning rod in a part of India simmering with religious tensions.
The Kathua incident was one of a string of brutal rapes that prompted thousands of people to take to the streets across India in April 2018. The decision was warmly welcomed by the leaders of Jammu and Kashmir as well as India and termed it as victory of victim.