RASANA: Rasana, a village 60 kms from Jammu has been polarized after the rape and murder of an eight-year-old nomad girl. The 14 Hindu and five Muslim families that were living in harmony for decades are now looking at each other with suspicion.
Fault lines have emerged and these are growing, as the formation of the Hindu Ekta Manch immediately after the murder of the child has added to the mistrust.
“We used to live in harmony. We used to share each others’ grief and celebrations. We used to take their fields for pasturing,” 72-year-old Ghulam Jan told TNIE.
However, after the horrific crime, everything has changed and there’s an environment of threat and fear.
“We don’t consider ourselves safe in our homes. We fear attacks by them,” said Jan.
He blamed Sanji Ram, former Patwari and main accused and conspirator of the crime, for this communalisation and polarization.
Sanji, he said, was a good man and gelled well with their community.
“However, there was a change in his attitude towards us a few years ago and he turned anti-Muslim. Sanji ensured that Bakerwals were not given land by Hindus in the area for pasturing,” Jan said.
Another nomad wondered why they formed the Hindu Ekta Manch. “Why was it formed immediately after girl’s killing? It was formed to threaten the Muslim nomads and they are continuously doing it,” he said.
“It clearly states in police charge sheet that the conspiracy to kill the girl was hatched to evict the nomads,” he added.
The victim girl’s mother said she is surprised by the support for the rapists. “They should have supported us, but unfortunately they are supporting the rapists and murderers and threatening us”.
She has decided to pull her two sons out of school. “I have been warned that they will meet the same fate”.
Jan’s daughter-in-law Irshad, who is staying back in Rasana with the ailing man and her sister-in-law, said she is scared to move out alone because of the charged atmosphere.
“I fear I may also be attacked and killed. I take my children along with me if I have to go anywhere,” she said.
However, a local, Sanjiv Kumar blamed the nomads for the disharmony.
He said about 500 nomads who attended a fourth day after-death ceremony, were led by a Gujjar leader and chanted anti-national and pro-Pakistan slogans. “The sloganeering caused panic in our community and the womenfolk stayed in a government school for three days and nights out of fear,” he added.
“Why did the police not act against them for anti-India and pro-Pakistan sloganeering,” he said.
Another resident, Jeevan said it was on the nomad’s behest that police arrested the eight people and forced them to admit to the crime.
He said the Gujjar leader named four people for their involvement in the crime after the body of the girl was recovered.
“How did he know instantly that they were involved,” he said and blamed the government for appeasing nomads for vote bank politics.
Denying burial place
After the body of the girl was recovered on January 17, her family took her for burial in a graveyard in the village.
“Seven of our people are buried there and we took her for burial there. However, the Hindus objected saying it was their place and they won’t allow it. We tried to convince them that it is our graveyard and we have purchased it and buried seven bodies here. But they threatened to level the graveyard,” said Jan.
He said they buried the child in another graveyard, about 2-3 kms from Rasana.
“How can a human deny burial place to her? Why did Hindus object to her burial in the village graveyard,” he questioned.
However, Sanjiv defends it saying the graveyard is not the nomads’ property.
“It’s the property of a local and we stopped them from grabbing it,” he said.
Another resident said the nomads had been allotted another graveyard and they tried to bury the body on someone’s land. “How can it be allowed?”
The Hindu community in Rasana is defending the accused Sanji Ram, his son Vishal Jangrotra, the juvenile, SPO Deepak Khajuria, Parvesh Kumar, Head Constable Tilak Raj, Sub-Inspector Anand Dutta and SPO Surinder Kumar.
Sanji’s wife Darshana said they have been framed.
“My husband, son and nephew are being framed. How can an elderly man tell his son and nephew to rape and kill? There has to be some kind of reasoning,” she said.
“We too want justice for the girl, but we don’t want innocents to be punished,” she said.
A government teacher said she had read books on psychology of criminals involved in rapes.
“The accused in such crimes belong to a same age group. However, in this case there is age difference,” she said.
She said a notion has been created that they support the accused.
“We want justice for the girl but we don’t want innocents to be framed,” she said, adding police has forced people to accept the blame under torture.
She said villagers don’t believe that Sanji Ram can commit and plan such a brutal crime.
According to Crime Branch (CB) investigation Sanji is the main accused and conspirator of the incident and had done it to force eviction of nomads.
Division over Crime Branch investigation
“We are very satisfied with the probe. The court has found eight people involved after three months of investigation,” said the biological father of the girl.
“The probe has nailed the culprits and now is time for court to punish them. They should be hanged”.
However, a resident Sham Lal, said they don’t trust the investigations.
“It says the girl was kept for seven days in a temple. How is it possible when people visit it daily,” he said.
“We want justice for the girl’s family and those framed by Crime Branch. If CBI probe confirms that the accused are guilty, then we will accept it otherwise not,” added Sham.