Jammu: The crime branch of Jammu and Kashmir police is likely to submit the charge sheet before the high court in the rape and murder case of a minor girl in Kathua district next week, a senior police officer said today.
The incident had sparked an outrage across the state.
“The over two-and-a-half-month long investigation is almost complete and we are likely to file the charge sheet in the court, which is monitoring the case, next week,” the officer told PTI.
Body of eight-year-old girl from the Bakherwal community was recovered from Rassana forest on January 17, a week after she went missing while grazing horses in the forest area.
On January 23, the government handed over the case to the crime branch of state police which formed a Special Investigation Team (SIT) and arrested eight persons, including two Special Police Officers (SPOs) and a head constable, in connection with the case. The head constable was charged with destruction of evidence.
Among the accused, former revenue official and the alleged conspirator Sanji Ram (60) surrendered before the crime branch on March 20 after his son Vishal was arrested from Uttar Pradesh.
The officer, speaking on condition of anonymity, refused to divulge the exact date for filing of the charge sheet but said the probe was in its concluding phase after the crime branch received the forensic test reports which confirmed that the eight-year-old girl was held hostage at a temple premises, drugged and raped several times before being murdered.
Though the incident sent shock waves across the state, several parties including Jammu High Court Bar Association (JHCBA) and National Panthers Party (NPP) supported the demand for a CBI probe which, however, was turned down by Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti.
The JHCBA is on strike since Thursday in support of various demands including handing over the Kathua rape-cum-murder case to CBI, a demand which was also highlighted by women relatives of the accused who are on an indefinite hunger strike since March 31.
The BJP, which is sharing power with the PDP in the state, yesterday said it supports the issues like deportation of Rohingyas and Bangladeshi immigrants raised by the JHCBA, but will not like to support them for the Rassana (rape-cum-murder) issue since it was subjudice.
It, however, alleged that one of the members of SIT, investigating the case, himself was involved in a “twin murder and rape case of Hindu boy and a girl”.
“In-charge Karara Police Post, Thathri police station, was arrested in 2007 for murder of a boy and alleged rape of a girl during illegal custody. How can person of such a character and antecedents be associated with the present investigation and is likely to raise doubts on the fairness of the investigation,” state BJP chief spokesperson Sunil R P Sethi had said.
Soon after the incident, the residents of Kathua formed the Hindu Ekta Manch and marched through the streets with tricolour to press for release of the arrested persons but later changed their demand for CBI inquiry after severe criticism from different quarters, including the chief minister.
On February 27, the residents of village Rassana migrated to Hiranagar as a protest against the PDP-BJP government, alleging harassment and mass detentions by the crime branch.
Two BJP ministers — Lal Singh and Chander Prakash Ganga — visited the protesters and supported their demand for a CBI probe.
On March 8, Chief Minister Mufti had rejected the demand of the BJP for a CBI probe and said the probe was almost complete by over 95 per cent.
The investigation revealed that it was a pre-planned murder carried out with the intention to instill fear among the Bakharwal nomads residing in the area and drive them out.
One of the arrested persons, who was said to be a juvenile, underwent for a medical examination at government medical college here on March 7 which opined that he was over 19 years old, two days before the crime branch submitted a detailed status report to the court.
Meanwhile, a women’s roundtable conference, organised by NGO Fahad Mir Foundation of Jammu and Swar Raga of Haryana here yesterday, said the social crimes should not be politicised or communalised and dealt as per law.
The conference was attended by eminent women of Jammu who are acclaimed for their social work in diverse fields and research scholars from local universities and colleges.
“Social crimes should not be identified with any cast creed, religion, or particular strata. Women are powerful enough to question and challenge any such negative development in the society,” founder of Fahad Mir Foundation Ruchi Chauhan Khan said.
She alleged that there was some delay in addressing the critical issue of Rassana rape and murder case. “The message should go across that all atrocities against women or any vulnerable section must be seen as social challenges, and not twisted to suit political or communal agendas,” Khan said.