Kathua: Police Say 8-Yr-Old Murdered And Raped To Frighten A Community
A police investigation into the rape and murder of an eight-year-old girl from Kathua in Jammu & Kashmir has found that the murder was part of a conspiracy. According to a report by The Indian Express, the murder was to scare off the Bakarwal community and to get them move out of the area.
Government sources told The Indian Express that the person arrested first was not a juvenile, as believed earlier. After the physical, dental, and radiological examinations conducted by the Principal Government Medical College, Jammu, it was found that the accused was over 19 years.
The gruesome incident took place in January when a girl from the Bakarwal community disappeared when she was out grazing ponies. Her body was recovered on January 11 from a wooded part of Rasana village. Tests were conducted to find whether she was raped or not and found that she was alive for three or four days after her missing. She was kept in a large prayer room. Her body was found almost 200 metres from the prayer room.
“She was a talkative girl and a joyous soul. She would even greet strangers with a smile. She was captive for seven days. She might have gone through hell. Her two ribs were also fractured. She was abused sexually,” said the girl’s mother.
The investigation found that the arrested accused, and his relative made conspiracy to abduct the girl and kill her to get the Bakarwals to leave the village. Sources have said that around 200 Bakarwals had bought land from local residents to build houses. Two days after the body was discovered, the police arrested a boy and said that he was a juvenile. According to the information given by the police, the accused has confessed the abduction of the girl and said that she was forcibly given drugs and was raped and killed when she resisted.
On January 23, the case was handed over to crime branch and special police officers Deepak Khajuria and Surinder Verma were arrested. “More than one person is involved in this case. There should be a CBI inquiry or a judicial probe. The police actions till now only provoke lamentations about unfairness and humiliation,” said Talib Hussain and tribal activist from Kashmir to The Economic Times. “The government is trying to confuse the case by shifting it to the crime branch. They want to shield the perpetrators of this heinous crime,” he added.
The incident has polarised the region and made a communal divide in Kathua. The victim was a Muslim and the arrested police officers were Hindus. A group called Hindu Ekta Manch was set up and demanded a CBI Enquiry. This group is supported by BJP leaders and has a cross-party membership, according to The Indian Express report.
On February 14, the members of Hindu Ekta Manch held a protest march, waving the Indian flag. Prem Nath Dogra, the BJP district president in Kathua called the investigation as ‘jihad’ led by a specific group of people. He said the government could have formed an investigating team with 50% of Hindu members. A Muslim officer from Kashmir heads the investigation team. Some of the Hindu villagers accused that the crime branch was working under pressure from Bakarwals.
The Chief Minister of the state Mehbooba Mufti said that she was horrified by the protest and the opposition National Conference condemned the ‘communalisation and polarisation’ of the case.
The Bakarwal and Gujjar community in Jammu had joined hands together to protest the police’s indifference to the complaint filed by the girl’s father.
Bakarwal is a Sunni-Muslim nomadic tribe. Most of them are goatherds and shepherds. They are found in the Kashmir region between India and Pakistan and in the Nuristan province of Afghanistan. Altaf Jan, uncle of the murdered girl told The Economic Times that there was huge discrimination against them. “The two communities have cultural differences. But there is systematic effort to harass us. For example, water supply schemes and other government schemes are not implemented in areas where Bakerwals live. Many times we are not allowed to take water from community tanks,” he told. “We face huge discrimination. This is to make our life difficult here,” he added.