World India's outrage over rape and killing of girl engulfs Modi in crisis

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The rape and killing of an 8-year-old girl is provoking major political fallout for India’s government, with an explosion of outrage reminiscent of the reaction several years ago after a young woman was brutally...

India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi poses for a picture after being presented with the highest Palestinian award in the West Bank city of Ramallah play

India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi poses for a picture after being presented with the highest Palestinian award in the West Bank city of Ramallah

(AFP)

In the past few days, as protests erupted across the country, two high-level officials from the governing party have resigned, the Supreme Court has stepped in and opposition leaders have tried to push India’s prime minister, Narendra Modi, into a corner.

Modi issued brief remarks Friday about the rape case and another recent one, but only after opposition leaders spoke out, criticizing his silence. His statement that the country was ashamed about the rapes and that “our daughters will definitely get justice” hardly doused the growing anger.

What happened to this one little girl, whose crumpled body was found in a blood-smeared dress in January, is now the biggest news in India.

The girl came from a nomadic Muslim community in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. Police say a group of Hindu men lured her into a forest, kidnapped her, drugged her, locked her in a Hindu temple, gang-raped her and then strangled her.

According to investigators, the culprits confessed after being arrested and said that they had targeted the young girl as part of a plot to terrorize her nomadic community and drive them away.

In January, when the crime occurred, the girl’s death barely registered beyond local news reports.

But the case roared back to life this past week after a mob of lawyers surrounded a courthouse and tried to block police officers from filing charges (police eventually filed the charge sheet at a judge’s house). Some of the lawyers were aligned with Modi’s nationalist party, the Bharatiya Janata Party, known as the BJP.

Two BJP ministers in the Jammu and Kashmir state government who had participated in the protests resigned Friday under widespread criticism, facing accusations of obstructing justice and fanning religious divisions.

India’s ruling party seems to have failed to learn the painful political lessons from the 2012 rape. At the time, the Indian National Congress, now the leading opposition party, was in power, and it was severely criticized for its slow and tone-deaf reaction.

Those same criticisms are now being leveled against Modi and his party.

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.

JEFFREY GETTLEMAN © 2018 The New York Times

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