Horrific details have emerged in the rape and murder case of an eight-year-old nomadic girl in Kathua district, that has had Jammu and Kashmir on edge since last month, in a chargesheet filed by the state police’s crime branch on Monday.
The minor was abducted, raped and murdered in Rassana village in Hiranagar tehsil of Kathua district in January. The body of the girl, from the Bakarwal community, was recovered from Rassana forest in Kathua on 17 January, a week after she went missing while grazing horses in the forest area.
According to the chargesheet, the victim was gang-raped multiple times at a prayer hall after the accused had carried out certain ‘rituals’, while they kept the girl in captivity for seven days. It said that one of the rapists was called from Meerut to “satisfy his lust”. The girl was given sedatives and held captive, strangled, raped and hit on the head twice with a stone “in order to make sure” she was dead. All this was done in an attempt to dislodge a group of Bakarwal Muslim nomads from Rasana village in Kathua near Jammu, the chargesheet said.
Details of the heinous crime
According to the chargesheet, the accused Sanji Ram, in an attempt to dislodge the Bakarwal community from the Rasana area, had hatched a conspiracy along with co-accused Deepak Khajuria, an SPO from the police department, and a juvenile.
The chargesheet states that the accused Khajuria went to a medical store at Kottah Morh on 7 January and purchased one strip of Epitril 0.5 mg containing 10 tablets using his uncle’s prescription. He then instructed the juvenile to intoxicate the girl after abducting her.
According to the chargesheet, on 7 January, Sanji told the juvenile to kidnap the Bakarwal girl, who often came to the forests behind the house of the accused to graze her horses.
The chargesheet quoted the minor, who was residing with his maternal uncle in village Rasana, as saying that he had met the victim some seven-eight times before he lured her on the assurance that he would help her in tracing out some of her horses that had gone missing recently.
He told her that “he had seen her horses and led her to the jungle”. “He also called accused Mannu. Sensing some trouble, the victim tried to flee but the juvenile stopped her by catching hold of her neck and covered her mouth with one of his hands and pushed her and she fell on the ground,” the chargesheet said.
He then took her to a shed of his maternal uncle and tied her hands with a rope lying in the shed, the chargesheet said. “The victim fell unconscious and was raped by the juvenile (in the jungle). Thereafter, Mannu also attempted to rape her. They took her and kept her inside the Devasthan under the table over two plastic mats and then covered her,” it said.
On 11 January, the juvenile informed another accused Vishal Jangotra about the kidnapping of the girl and asked him to return from Meerut in case he wanted to satisfy his lust. The next day, Jangotra reached Rasana at 6 am. “At around 8.30 am, the juvenile again went to the Devasthan and administered three sedative tablets to the girl while she was unconscious,” the chargesheet said.
On 13 January, the chargesheet said: ” …accused Jangotra, the juvenile and accused Sanji went to the Devasthan where he performed rituals”. Later, Jangotra “raped the nomad girl. Thereafter, the juvenile also raped the girl”.
They held her captive for almost a week, after which the juvenile untied her. “He took her back through the same route, wherefrom, he had brought her to the shed and on the way, he unknotted her trouser and attempted to rape her. The girl reacted by saying that she will narrate the whole incident to her family members. Apprehending that Bakarwals residing in the area will kill him, he strangulated her with a chunni that was worn by her. Blood oozed from her mouth and thereafter he took her in his lap to another place and threw her on the ground, where he hit her head twice with a stone,” the chargesheet said.
“Khajuria told the juvenile to wait as he wanted to rape the girl before she is killed. As such once again the little girl was gang-raped, first by accused Khajuria and then by the juvenile. After committing the barbaric act, Khajuria kept her neck on his left thigh and started applying force with his hands on her neck in order to kill her,” the chargesheet states.
The body was dumped inside the prayer hall after Sanji directed the other accused to “throw the body in the jungle.”
Lawyer’s attempt to block chargesheet
The Jammu and Kashmir Police’s crime branch faced resistance from local lawyers while filing the chargesheet in the case as they allegedly tried to prevent them from filing the documents before the court on Monday.
An FIR was registered against lawyers who tried to block the presentation of a chargesheet in a court in Jammu and Kashmir in the rape and murder of a minor girl, police said on Tuesday.
“The FIR has been lodged into the incident wherein some lawyers tried to obstruct the presenting of the chargesheet by the Crime Branch in the court of a Chief Judicial Magistrate at Kathua on Monday. An action under the law will be taken against those found involved in the incident,” Director General of Police SP Vaid told IANS. The chargesheet against seven accused was finally filed in the court after police intervened to control the lawyers’ protest.
Political parties slam protests
The Congress and CPM condemned the lawyers’ protest, alleging that Monday’s incident was part of a well-thought-out conspiracy to polarise communities in the state by giving a criminal act a communal colour.
Lashing out at the lawyers, Jammu and Kashmir Congress chief GA Mir described the incident as “politically motivated, obnoxious and a conspiracy to achieve something out of this heinous crime for those hindering the process of justice”.
CPM state secretary Ghulam Nabi Malik said some vested interests were trying to derive political mileage out of a brutal and inhuman act. “It is a shameful act and against the human values on part of these lawyers and their political masters, who instead of helping the victim’s family to get justice, behaved like hooligans,” he said.
Former chief minister Omar Abdullah, who criticised the lawyers who tried to prevent the filing of the chargesheet, welcomed the registration of the FIR. “Good. Lawyers who have no respect for law deserve to have the full weight of the law books crash down on them,” he tweeted.
National Conference general-secretary Ali Mohammad Sagar said it was “unheard of” in the history of the country that white-collar professionals came out in support of those accused of such a crime. “We demand the case be shifted out of Kathua to any other place where the trial can be held without any interference,” Sagar said, adding a fast-track court should be set up to ensure speedy justice to the victim.
Demanding strict action against those involved Monday’s protests by lawyers, he lashed out at those who have called for a Jammu bandh on Wednesday and urged the people of Jammu to defeat the nefarious designs of fringe elements.
The case so far
According to a report in The Print, a post-mortem report indicated damage to the girl’s uterus and death due to asphyxiation. The police will present this as evidence that she was raped, and that she died after being strangulated with her shawl. A separate report by The Print also says that the DNA of a hair strand found at the site where her body was dumped matches with the DNA of one of the accused.
Available evidence is also said to have confirmed that the girl was held captive inside a temple before the murder, police officials said. Top sources in the state police crime branch said that the DNA of hair strands found inside the temple matched with those of Asifa.
Nine accused, including Sanji, a police head constable, two special police officers (SPOs) and a sub-inspector of police have been arrested in the case.
Political temperatures in Jammu and Kashmir escalated after the arrest of Khajuria, a police officer who allegedly abducted the victim, kept her in confinement for seven days, and then murdered her. The Hindu Ekta Manch in the state has claimed Khajuria to be their member.
Soon after the incident, members of the Hindu Ekta Manch marched through the streets of Kathua with the tricolour to press for the release of the arrested persons. The protesters later changed their demand and sought a CBI inquiry after severe criticism from different quarters, including the chief minister. Two BJP ministers — Lal Singh and Chander Prakash Ganga — visited the protesters and supported their demand for a CBI probe.
The BJP has alleged that one of the members of SIT investigating the case himself was involved in a “twin murder and rape case of Hindu boy and a girl”.
On 8 March, Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Mehbooba Mufti had rejected the demand for a CBI probe and said the probe was almost 95 percent complete.
Separatist groups in the state also expressed rage over the rape and murder. At a joint protest rally, Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Yasin Malik demanded death penalty for those responsible for the crime.