SRINAGAR: The brutal rape and murder of eight-year-old nomad girl in the border district of Kathua in January this year has polarised society in Jammu and Kashmir. A section led by Hindu Ekta Manch (HEM) and supported by at least two BJP ministers has openly came in “support” of the accused and challenged the ongoing Crime Branch probe into the case.
“We don’t trust the police and Crime Branch investigation. Police is arresting Hindu youth and forcing them to confess. Those arrested by the Crime Branch cannot be declared guilty unless proven,” HEM leader and BJP state secretary Vijay Sharma said. Sharma formed HEM six days after the girl’s body was found.
The eight-year-old victim from Rasana village in Kathua went missing on January 10. Her body was found a week later with bite-marks on her lips. Women who performed her last ritual bath said she was sexually assaulted before being killed, as her genitals were mutilated.
The Crime Branch has arrested five people, including a 15-year-old, Special Police Officers (SPOs) Deepak Khajuria and Surinder Verma, and sub-inspector Anand Dutta.
Sources said the rape and murder was committed to drive out Muslim nomads from the Hindu-dominated village. Locals prevented the girl’s body from being buried in a graveyard owned by them. She was buried in a village 8 km from her house.
There have been allegations that police officers probing the case, under the influence of HEM, attempted to destroy evidence. Sources said the arrested people told police that the girl’s clothes, which were soaked in blood and mud, were washed before being sent for forensic examination. This led to the arrest of Dutta, the Inquiry Officer.
The HEM, which is agitating for release of the accused and demanding CBI inquiry, has received support from BJP ministers Lal Singh and Chander Prakash Ganga. Union minister Jitendra Singh also favours handing over case to CBI.
“Police are beating the detained youth. They should have gone for scientific and circumstantial evidence,” Sharma said. Concerned over support to the accused, Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti said some people were trying to communalise the incident and vitiate the peaceful atmosphere.
During a meeting with BJP ministers on March 8, she refused to hand over the case to CBI saying the probe by Crime Branch was in final stage. J&K minister Altaf Bukhari said the PDP would end the alliance with the BJP if it fails to deliver justice in the case. Sharma accused Mufti of playing politics to safeguard her vote bank in Kashmir.