Hindu “truthers” are spreading conspiracy theories about the rape and murder of an 8-year-old girl that has shocked India.
The victim was from a Muslim family, and, according to the police report, her rapists were Hindu men, including three police officers who allegedly conspired to abduct, drug, and rape the girl before killing her.
The police charge sheet says the motive behind the murder, which took place in a village near Kathua in the northern state of Jammu and Kashmir, was to drive the girl’s tribe — pastoral Muslim nomads — out of land claimed by Hindus.
Some of the conspiracies over the girl’s murder are based on right-wing “ground reports” that present selective facts, while others are outright lies.
A few weeks after the charge sheet was first covered by the press, some newspapers began to speculate that the rape had never occurred.
The Sunday Guardian newspaper published an entire conspiracy theory about how the girl was never raped — written as news, with the actual names of all the characters mentioned in the charge sheet — with only a small disclaimer at the bottom that the story was a work of "fiction."
In an interview with the Scroll.in news website, the newspaper’s publisher defended running the concocted story by saying: “Satire is often used together with 'real names' but here it was made clear it was fiction and a concoction. Fake news when passed off as true is certainly worrisome but when explicitly presented as such, the same judgment would be too harsh.”
Meanwhile, internet detectives began to speculate about an 8-year-old’s hymen.
(Jammu’s police department actually had to issue a press statement addressing this rumor and stating that yes, the 8-year-old girl had been raped.)
Some people on Twitter have questioned the location where the victim was hidden and where her body was eventually found.
Others asked whether some of the accused who were named in the charge sheet had even been present in the region.
(#KathuaKaSach means "the truth about Kathua.")
According to the police charge sheet, the chief suspect arranged an alibi for his son at college — the son then took a few days off college to visit the temple where the young girl was being raped.
Right-wing Twitter accounts speculated that posters demanding justice for the child were made by ISIS.
To drive home the idea that secular Indians and Islamist agents are using the rape to “defame” India and Hindus, pictures of random tourists wearing T-shirts with the words “Women are not as worthy as cows in India” began to circulate online.
Accompanying captions on Twitter said that the photographs, which others said appeared to have been doctored, had been taken at Istanbul airport — a dog whistle to suggest the men wearing the T-shirts are Muslim. The hashtag in the tweet means "Kathua is an excuse to target India."
Giriraj Singh, a minister from the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, who is known for asking Indians who disagree with Prime Minister Narendra Modi to “go to Pakistan,” said the rape was yet another attempt to defame Hindus, hatched by “pseudo-secularists.”
People also asked why another horrific rape in the northeastern state of Assam, where the accused is a Muslim boy, hadn't attracted "as much outrage."
This led to the circulation of macabre cartoons, such as the one below.
In case people didn’t fully understand the theory that “rapes by Hindus” received more attention than rapes by other communities, this user made a helpful diagram:
Which finally leads us to the question of who raped and murdered the girl from Kathua if it wasn’t the group of Hindu men mentioned in the police charge sheet.
According to a recent and bizarre theory, she was killed by Rohingya settlers from Myanmar — who are Muslim.
The criminal trial into the girl's rape and murder begins on April 28.