Srinagar: Forest and Environment Minister Lal Singh and Commerce and Industries Minister Chander Parkash Ganga went to Kathua to participate in the Hindu Ekta Manch’s rally because the BJP’s top brass sent them there to “understand the people”, BJP’s state general secretary Ashok Kaul told Kashmir Reader.
“The party had sent them (ministers). Who will take action against them? The BJP leadership sent them. We sent them to make them understand the people there,” Kaul said.
In March, the two cabinet ministers accompanied by BJP MLAs Kuldip Raj and Rajeev Jasrotia, who represent Hiranagar and Kathua assembly constituencies, respectively, addressed the Hindu Ekta Manch (HEM) rally that was called to support the men accused of the heinous rape and murder of 8-year-old Asifa Bano. Both Singh and Ganga supported HEM’s demand of handing over the case to the CBI (Central Bureau of Investigation).
According to Kaul, people in Kathua district were “abusing” their legislators. “The ministers went there to understand the people and the situation,” Kaul said, just like the party sent two of its ministers to Rajouri’s Nowshera where people were agitating over the demand of district status for the town.
At the HEM’s Kathua rally, Singh was heard saying, “Police are not arresting people who chant anti-India slogans, who burn the tricolour, but they have arrested people here. I want you to stay firm in your resolve and I am with you. I support you in your demand of shifting this case to the CBI.”
His colleague in the cabinet, Chander Prakash Ganga, said at the same rally, “We will not allow this jungle raj, under which they (police) are picking up people at will. What kind of investigation are they doing?”
Kaul said that the ministers did not “address” the rally, merely sat down and talked with people. “Which rally was there? They didn’t address on public address system. They talked to them by sitting with them.”
“We can’t remain cut-off from people,” Kaul said. “They told them that their demand will be conveyed to the Chief Minister. What else did they do? What rally? There were only 60 people.”
BJP spokesperson Arun Gupta said that the ministers “addressing the rally” should not be taken “seriously”, because the government has “strongly taken up the case”.
The JK Police’s crime branch in its chargesheet has accused Sanji Ram, who also attended rallies of the HEM, of being the mastermind of the abduction, rape and murder of Asifa. The chargesheet says that it was Sanji Ram, who is a former revenue official and custodian of the Devisthan temple in Hiranagar, who tasked his juvenile nephew and a policeman with kidnapping Asifa, administering her sedatives, and confining her in Devisthan temple.
The little girl from the nomadic Muslim Bakerwal community was abducted and then gang-raped inside as well as outside the temple before she was murdered. Seven persons accused in the case have been charged with crimes under Sections 302, 376, 201 and 120-B of the Ranbir Penal Code. They include Sanji Ram’s son Vishal Jangotra, a special police officer (SPO), another SPO, Deepak Khajuria, Head Constable Tilak Raj, Sub-Inspector Anand Dutta, and Parvesh Kumar.