Kathua rape: Police baton charge, launch tear gas on protesters

Jammu: Police on Thursday baton-charged and tear-gassed protesters during a march taken out by the Dogra community demanding a CBI probe into the rape-and-murder case of an eight-year-old girl in Jammu and Kashmir’s Kathua district.

Several people were injured in the police action and the clashes that followed on Jammu-Srinagar national highway in Chadwal area. One person was reported critical after he was hit by a bus during the protest.

Thousands of Dogra community members had taken out “Ekta Yatra” demanding a CBI investigation into the matter and to protest the mass detention of youngsters by the police. The protesters allege that crime branch officials were harassing members of a particular community in connection with the case.

The minor girl’s body was recovered from a forest area on January 17, a week after she had gone missing. On January 23, the government handed over the case to the crime branch of the police, which arrested two Special Police Officers for their alleged involvement in the abduction and killing of the girl.

A special investigation team later also arrested a 15-year-old boy in connection with the case.

Today, a large number of police personnel were deployed in the area fearing trouble during the protest. The protesters raised slogans against Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti, the BJP, and the police and the crime branch.

When the protesters disrupted traffic on the highway, the police resorted to teargas shelling and baton charge to disperse them, leading to clashes between them.

“The protest rally has been dispersed and the traffic has been restored,” a police officer told PTI.

He said the injured have been admitted to Government Medical College hospital in Jammu.

The officer said one person was hit by a vehicle and was critically injured. The vehicle’s driver has been detained.

The police said they had to baton charge the protesters to clear the highway. However, the protesters alleged that the policemen there pushed a person and he came under the vehicle.

Meanwhile, more than 70 activists of the Jammu and Kashmir National Panthers Party were detained by the police before they could join the “Ekta Yatra”.

JKNPP state Chief Balwant Singh Mankotia told reporters that the people of Jammu area want a CBI probe. He claimed the crime branch officers belong to a particular community and expressed fears of harassment.

“These crime branch officers have harassed Hindus in the area in the name of probe, resulting in a large migration of Hindus from the area last week. It cannot be tolerated. We all want a probe by the CBI to arrest and punish the culprits.”

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