Srinagar, Indian-administered Kashmir – Six men have been convicted in the infamous case of gang rape and murder of a young girl from a Muslim nomadic tribe in 2018 that provoked horror and stoked interreligious tensions.

A special court in Pathankot in India‘s northern state of Punjab on Monday found the men guilty of the rape and murder of the eight-year-old girl in Kathua village of Indian-administered Kashmir last year.

The six Hindu men were due to be sentenced later on Monday.

The barbarity of the case came to the fore in a 16-page charge sheet presented by the crime branch – a special wing of the Jammu and Kashmir police – in April last year.

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The investigation had revealed that the rape and murder were systematic, preplanned and rooted in religious hatred harboured by Sanji Ram, a Hindu, against the Muslim nomadic community of Bakarwals – a tribal community.

As the incident had created communal tension in the restive region last year, authorities made elaborate security arrangements at the court complex in Pathankot and Kathua in the run-up to the verdict.

Charges of rape and murder were framed by the district and sessions judge against seven of the eight accused, all Hindus.

The trial against one of the accused – a juvenile – is yet to begin as his petition on determining his age is to be heard by the Jammu and Kashmir High Court. Another accused was acquitted by the court on Monday.

The accused face a minimum sentence of life imprisonment and maximum the death penalty. However, the argument on the quantum of punishment is yet in progress and is likely to be announced later on Monday.

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