The brutal gang rape and murder of an eight-year-old Muslim girl, in the northern Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir, has inflamed religious tensions and sparked widespread protests, in a case that is threatening to further destabilize an already restive region.
CNN reports that the small, lifeless body of the girl, whose identity is protected by Indian law, was recovered from a forest in the isolated Himalayan district of Kathua in late January after an extensive police search.
But it was the horrifying details that emerged following a police investigation made public this month that have seen the case gain nationwide attention.
Police say the young girl, who belonged to a Muslim nomadic community known as the Bakarwals, was abducted while grazing horses in a meadow on January 12.
From there, it is alleged she was taken to a Hindu temple, where she was drugged and held captive for five days.
During that period, police say she was raped repeatedly by several different men, before being murdered and dumped in a nearby forest on January 17. Autopsy reports concluded that she had been strangled to death.
According to the BBC, the men the police have arrested include a retired government official, four police officers and a minor – all of them belong to a local Hindu community that has been involved in a land dispute with the Muslim nomads.
Outrage grew after two ministers from the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party attended a rally in support of the accused men.