An eight-year-old girl from the Muslim nomadic shepherd Bakarwal community was abducted and gang-raped several times over a week and then murdered in Jammu’s Kathua in January.
She went missing on January 10 after she went to the forest to graze horses. Her family, after conducting an initial search in the forest area, filed a police complaint on January 12. The police were initially dismissive of their plea. As reported by BBC, they said that maybe the eight-year-old girl “eloped” with a boy. Following this, there was a massive protest from the Bakarwal community demanding an investigation and search for the girl.
Five days later, her lifeless body was found in the forest. Even her burial was not peaceful. Her family wanted to bury her in a land that they bought a few years ago and had already buried five people. They were surrounded by Hindu right-wing activists who threatened them with violence if they were to continue with the burial, reported BBC. They buried her 10 kms away in a different village.
“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.
A timeline of the planned rape and murder
Jammu & Kashmir Chief Minister, Mehbooba Mufti, ordered an investigation by the crime branch, a special unit of the state police, into the rape and murder of the little girl. Investigations later revealed that Special Police Officer (SPO) Deepak Khajuria, who was part of the team investigating the case, was one of the accused in the rape.
Khajuria was arrested following the revelation and the rape and murder of a child became a political issue. Hindu Ekta Manch, a fringe political outfit of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), some local villagers and two BJP ministers demanded the release of Khajuria.
They termed the investigation as being botched and conducted under “tremendous fabricated pressure”. They started asking for the case to be transferred to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).
“The way the Crime Branch and the police have acted so far, it is clear the government’s intentions were not clear. We want a transparent and fair probe into the case. For that, the case should be handed over to the CBI,” said Vijay Kumar Sharma, president of the Hindu Ekta Manch.
On February 14, members of the Hindu Ekta Manch took out a protest rally with the Indian flag to demand the release of the arrested Special Police Officer.
Killed to teach community a lesson
Jammu has a Hindu majority and Kashmir has a Muslim majority. The investigation found that the arrested accused and his relative made a 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. 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.
Kathua Bar Association joins hand with Hindu Ekta Manch
On April 9, the Kathua Bar Association in a press release extended their support to the Hindu Ekta Manch. To show their support, they blocked crime branch officials who were trying to go inside the court to file the charge sheet against the accused. Lawyers, responsible to deliver justice, used “Jai Shree Ram” to do the opposite.
Chargesheet reveals horrific details
According to the charge sheet, the mastermind behind the rape and murder is retired revenue official Sanji Ram who is among the eight arrested, along with his son Vishal Jangotra and his nephew, who believed to be a juvenile.
The Crime Branch had also arrested Special Police Officers (SPO) Deepak Khajuria and Surinder Kumar, a Rasana resident Parvesh Kumar, Assistant Sub Inspector Anand Dutta and Head Constable Tilak Raj in the case. Dutta and Raj were arrested for trying to destroy evidence.
Terrible details have emerged from the 18-page charge sheet. It says that the girl was gang-raped thrice inside the Devasthan or prayer hall after the mastermind behind the crime performed a “ritual”. One of the rapists came all the way from Meerut to “satisfy his lust”. Before killing the girl, another police officer asked others to wait because he wanted to rape her “one last time”.
“After committing the barbaric act of rape on the minor victim, the accused Khajuria kept her neck on his left thigh and started applying force with his hands on her neck in order to kill her… Khajuria was unsuccessful in killing her, the juvenile killed her by pressing his knees against her back while strangulating the girl by applying force on both the ends of her chunni. Thereafter, the accused, in order to make sure that the victim is dead, hit her twice on head with a stone,’’ the charge sheet says.
An 8-year-old girl was brutally raped and murdered. The Hindu Ekta Manch led by two BJP state ministers took out a rally with India's flag and Kathua Bar Association also marched defending the accused.#JusticeForAsifa
Posted by The Logical Indian on Thursday, April 12, 2018
To prevent further communal polarisation over the probe, the police is seeking the appointment of officers belonging to Sikhism — a ‘neutral faith’, reported Outlook. To investigate the rape and murder of an 8-year-old, a person from a ‘third faith’ has to be appointed – speaking in volumes about the Indian democracy. How can religious biases come into play when a child is gang-raped – is a question we need to ask ourselves.