Srinagar: Amid renewed outrage in Jammu and Kashmir and beyond over the recent rape and murder of an 8-year-old nomad girl of the State’s Kathua district, the Minister of State for External Affairs, General (retired) VK Singh, on Thursday said “we as humans have failed her”.
Expressing distress over the gory incident, the Union minister, however, assured that the victim will not be denied justice. He wrote on Twitter, “We have failed Ashifa as humans. But she will not be denied justice. #PunishTheSavages #RapeAndMurderOfHumanity #Kathua #JusticeForAshifa #GenerallySaying”.
The Union minister’s word has generated hope back in the State that those involved in the heinous crime would be brought to justice. Though the State unit of the BJP has officially stated that it won’t support the accused in the rape-and-murder case, some of the party leaders including two ministers have openly sided with them. Kashmir watchers believe that Singh’s assertion, the first reaction from a BJP minister, may prompt the BJP and the government at the Centre to reign in such elements within the party.
However, Talib Hussain, a Jammu lawyer who is appearing in the case on behalf of the victim’s family termed it BJP’s ‘double-standard’ and an attempt to hoodwink those within and outside the country who has risen against the gory act.
“If the government is serious on the issue and wants justice is delivered in the case why doesn’t it stop those including BJP ministers who have openly sided with the accused and even instigated the local Hindus against the victim’s family and rest of the Muslim community in Kathua,” Hussain asked.
He said, “There has been outrage against the brutal murder after rape of this poor girl including outside the country and the statement of Mr. Singh who is minister of state for external affairs should be seen in that context too.”
Earlier on Thursday, Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister, Mehbooba Mufti, assured that the investigation into the rape-and-murder case is on a fast track and law will not be obstructed by the irresponsible actions.
She tweeted, “The Law will not be obstructed by the irresponsible actions & statements of a group of people. Proper procedures are being followed, investigations are on the fast track & justice will be delivered."
The J&K police’s Crime Branch earlier this week filed two separate chargesheets against eight accused in the case in a court at Kathua in spite of resistance by a group of local lawyers.
The victim went missing while grazing horses in Rasana village of Hiranagar tehsil of Kathua district on January 17. A week later, her body was found in woods near her village. The alleged rape and murder of the minor evoked widespread outrage in J&K.
However, the incident took a strange turn later when large number of local Hindus took to the streets, waving the national Indian national flag and demanding unconditional release of the main accused Deepak Khajuria who is a Special Police Officer (SPO). The photographs of the protest march went viral on social media and Chief Minister Mufti shocked over the “abuse” of the national flag hit out at the protesters and reiterated that the law will take its own course.
In huge embarrassment to the Chief Minister, two of her senior ministers Chander Prakash Ganga and Chowhary Lal Singh from ally BJP also joined the protesters to seek investigations into the rape-and-murder case instead of the Crime Branch of the local by Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on the plea the local people had expressed lack of faith in police investigation. But the Chief Minister out rightly rejected the demand.
Earlier on Monday, a section of Jammu lawyers had prevented the police from filing charge sheet against the accused, evoking sharp criticism of various quarters.
Inspector General of Police (Crime Branch) Afhadul Mujtaba said that the charge sheet was filed against the accused despite resistance shown by some Jammu lawyers who blocked the way of police officials while on way to the court on Monday. Reports said that the police had to meet Kathua’s Chief Judicial Magistrate (CJM) late Monday night to submit the charge sheet.
The charge sheet was filed few days after DNA test confirmed that the victim was held captive inside Rasana’s Deasthan temple before being strangulated and stoned to death after rape. The charge sheet says that before her murder, tfa was raped once more.
Among the accused is a former revenue official and the alleged conspirator Sanji Ram (60) who surrendered before the Crime Branch on March 20 after his son Vishal Kumar was taken into custody by the police in Uttar Pradesh.
The Crime Branch officials said that they had received the forensic test reports which confirmed that the girl was held hostage at a temple premises, drugged and raped several times before being murdered by a SPO Khajuria.
According to the CB officials, the viscera report of the deceased has established that she was drugged by the accused so that she would not cry for help. “The viscera report is positive for clonazepam. This means that the victim was drugged by the accused,” they said adding that the medical report has also revealed that the cause of the girl’s death was asphyxiation.
The police have arrested eight persons, including two SPOs and two other police officials in connection with the case. A police sub-inspector and a head-constable have been charged with destruction of evidence.
The police investigations have revealed that the the eight-year-old who belonged to nomadic Bakerwal (herdsmen) community was targeted with a view to force the eviction of the minority Muslim community from Kathua. The police have also said that even after the heinous crime was committed in connivance with local Hindu activists, her family was not allowed to bury her body in the local Muslim cemetery and it had but had to walk a long distance to perform her last rites in a different village.