To do justice by Asifa would be to recognize that in her tragedy lies the story of thousands of women and girls in Kashmir who have experienced the same crimes fueled by the same ideologies. [CW/TW: mention of r/pe or sexual assault, and murder.] By Manaal Farooqi When news of an abduction, rape and murder of an 8-year-old girl in India broke loose earlier this month, the response was polarizing within the nation and amongst its diaspora. Asifa Bano was sexually assaulted for days then murdered by several men, also happened to be a Muslim Kashmiri in Indian occupied Kashmir. The Hindu men who tortured and murdered Asifa were found and arrested, but have received sympathies and demonstrations for their release from Hindu nationalists across the country. The men allegedly committed the crime to drive away Asifa’s family and community, the nomadic Bakarwal tribe members. The injustice has been framed as isolated from the overall occupation and atrocities that have been committed in the past decades in Kashmir, but the history of violence, sexual assault and more in the region has been an intrinsic part of this cycle of violence. Hindu nationalism has been on the rise since the election of Prime Minister Narendra Modi of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in 2014, which is the political extension of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) who are committed to creating a Hindu nationalist state. While these changes in government and policies have swept the nation since 2014, these issues have affected the people of Kashmir for far longer. Indian occupied Kashmir has dealt with clashes and insurgencies since 1965, at times with the help of the Pakistani state as well. In current times, the insurgency continues on a different scale with alternative tactics since 2017 — dubbed as the “year of the student uprising”— including mass protests and rallies. This particular generation has been raised in occupation for their entire lives and with the BJP in power they are experiencing the national shift with a deeper sense of estrangement from the state. With comments from both the BJP and Modi asking Kashmiri youth to choose between “tourism and terrorism”, the already established lack of faith in the state and government has deepened.
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