Asifa Bano was only eight years old when she was abused, raped, and murdered. A native of the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir, Asifa was grazing her horses in a meadow in her village on January 10. Then two men—one of them a police officer—kidnapped her and locked her in a nearby Hindu temple. Over the next three days, eight local men starved, assaulted, and raped Asifa. On January 13, one of the rapists strangled her to death and dumped her body in the jungle two days later. Three months of rallies, walkouts, and outrage followed.

The case finally made headlines in April after authorities filed charges against the men, several of whom confessed. But this crime was not just another instance of brutal sexual violence in India. Asifa was a Bakarwal, a nomadic community consisting mostly of Sunni Muslims, and her brutal rape and murder was part of a systematic effort to remove the Bakarwal from the region. This case exemplifies the growing tensions between Hindus and Muslims in the country and demonstrates the need to promote religious tolerance in an increasingly Islamophobic India.

In the aftermath of Asifa’s death, both Hindu and Muslim protesters came together to voice their disapproval, but many Hindu nationalists used the case as an opportunity to validate their thinly-veiled Islamophobia. Some of the police officers who investigated the case were Muslim, and Hindu activists accused them of malfeasance despite ample formal documentation of the arrests. Furthermore, a mob of Hindu lawyers hindered these officers from entering a courthouse to complete paperwork related to the case. These people—most of them Hindu radicals—used their religion to justify the abominable actions of rapists and murderers.

This kind of hatred also manifested in the general public of Jammu and Kashmir, which includes sizable populations of both Hindus and Muslims. One Hindu protestor, Bimla Devi, said, “[The Bakarwal] are against our religion,” and threatened, “We will burn ourselves” if authorities did not release the defendants.

Asifa’s case also conveyed the extent to which Islamophobia is ingrained into the Indian political and judicial systems. For one, members of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)—India’s largest right-wing party—defended the accused men instead of urging due process for Asifa. Furthermore, leaders of the BJP, including La Singh the ex-Minister of Forests, Environment, and Ecology, contended that Kashmiri police made the arrest with insufficient evidence and under political pressure.

The irony of Singh’s statement points to environment of intolerance in which the case’s proceedings are taking place. Not only does copious forensic evidence provide proof of the crime, but some of the men even confessed to raping Asifa. Their incarceration is not a question of political pressure but rather justice for an eight-year-old abused and killed because of her religion.

Asifa Bano’s tragic rape and murder symbolizes the anti-Muslim sentiment that pervades Indian culture. Her death should serve as a call to action for all Indians to combat the Islamophobia infecting their society.