RASANA (KATHUA), JAMMU AND KASHMIR: The brutal rape and murder of a minor girl triggered early seasonal migration of the nomadic Bakerwal community from Rasana village in the border district of Kathua.
“For the last 40 years, migration began after Baisakhi (April 14) but this year we started early because of fear caused by the horrific rape and murder of the girl,” said 72-year-old Mohammad Jan, a resident of panchayat Kootah village adjoining Rasana. He said the community used to plan the seasonal migration keeping weather conditions in view.
“However, this year weather condition was not our priority. Our community was our safety after the incident and the community members wanted to leave the place as early as possible.”
The family of the minor girl and about 35 other Bakerwal families from Rasana, Kootah and adjoining villages have already left via the Shivalik hills. Jan said communal amity in the village changed some years back and after the rape and murder of minor girl, none from the majority community in the area visited them to express their condolence or solidarity with the family.
He said Hindus of the village used to give land for pasturing to them but that stopped some years back.
“It was at the behest of Sanji Ram, the main accused in the rape and murder case. He used to tell his community members not to give land to Bakerwals and instead give to the Hindus,” Jan said.
The 8-year-old girl was abducted near her home in Rasana village on January 10 while she was grazing horses. Her body with torture and violence marks was recovered a week later, between the house of main accused Sanji Ram and the temple.
According to the Crime Branch of the J&K Police, the girl was kept hostage in the temple and given sedatives and raped before being killed and dumped in the area. Jan said he has not seen such a brutal killing ever. He said after the killing, the Hindu community did not allow them to bury the body of the girl in their graveyard.
“They should have stood by us in our hour of grief. But they told us to bury the girl’s body at some other place. We had to bury her in Badinal village, about 3 kms from here,” he said. Jan said because of illness, he could not migrate and was taking care of her daughter and daughter-in-law and their children.
“We live in fear. When the sun sets, the fear increases and we don’t know whether we will be alive tomorrow or not,” he said.His daughter-in-law, Irshad, said she takes her infant child with her whenever she has to go to the market to purchase essentials or other commodities.
“We live in total fear,” she said.