Srinagar: Police on Thursday foiled a proposed march called by Hindu Ekta Manch (HEM) in Hiranagar area of Kathua district. According to local sources, “aggressive” HEM members led by the outfit’s president Vijay Sharma shouted slogans against Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti as they tried to take out their march. Police swung into action and detained several persons on charges of defying restrictions under Section 144 CrPC imposed in the area.
Sources said that after police foiled the march, scores of people from the Hindu community of the area appeared on the road near Pathkot and tried to block the highway. Police cane-charged these people and used tear smoke shells to disperse them, injuring many in the process.
Senior Superintendent of Police Kathua, Muhammad Suleman Chaudhry, told Kashmir Reader that no one was allowed to defy the restrictions. “We foiled the march as Section 144 had been imposed in the area,” he said.
The situation in Kathua is tense ever since four accused persons, including two Special Police Officers (SPOs) Deepak Khajuria and Surinder Verma, and a juvenile boy were arrested in connection with the rape and murder of an 8-year-old girl, Asifa. The HEM has been rallying for the release of the arrested persons and is demanding that the investigation be handed over to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).
Earlier in the day, New Delhi-based television channel NDTV reported that a police sub-inspector was detained for questioning and a head constable was arrested by the police’s crime branch for alleged involvement in the destruction of crucial evidence in the rape and murder case. A day before, the channel had exposed how the Kathua police destroyed crucial evidence when it was handling the case initially.
“Hawaldar Tilak Raj, posted at the Hiranagar police station, was arrested after it was prima facie established that he had washed Asifa’s clothes that were soaked in blood and mud before sending them for forensic test. Sub-inspector Anand Dutta, who was the investigative officer, has been detained for questioning,” NDTV in its report on Wednesday had said.
“We arrested a hawaldar and a sub-inspector is being questioned in connection with destruction of evidence,” NDTV quoted SP Vaid, director general of police, as saying on Thursday.
Talib Hussain, the Gujjar activist who has been rallying for justice for Asifa, alleged that HEM’s Thursday rally was meant to attack the nomadic Muslim community in the area. He added that members of HEM defy police restrictions frequently.
Hussain said that the Muslim nomadic community in Kathua is being threatened by members of several rightwing Hindu groups. “They are threatening the nomadic community of abducting their girls, setting fire to their houses, and looting their homes,” he alleged.
Hussain said he was satisfied with the inquiry being carried out by the police’s crime branch. “The reason I am satisfied with it is that it is being monitored by the honourable high court,” he said.
He added, “The crime branch came out with a report recently that Asifa was raped and murdered with the purpose to drive out the Muslim community from the area, which is what I have been saying from the beginning.”
Kashmir Reader tried to contact HEM president Vijay Sharma but his number was switched off.