BJP’s Hiranagar MLA, two former Cong MLAs and a sarpanch took part in meeting at Parashu Ram temple
Srinagar: A meeting of BJP and Congress leaders laid the foundation of the Hindu Ekta Manch, days after the body of the missing 8-year-old Gujjar girl was found in Kathua. Three BJP leaders, who included the saffron party’s legislator representing Hiranagar, and two former Congress legislators came together on a January evening at the Parashu Ram temple in Kathua, to form with a large group of people – Sanji Ram being one of them – the Hindu Ekta Manch. Sanji Ram, caretaker of the Devisthan temple where the girl was kept captive, raped and murdered, has been named as the “mastermind” of the crime in the police chargesheet.
Led by members of the BJP, Congress, and also one from the National Conference, the Manch came to the defence of the men accused of the rape and murder of the minor girl. They took out rallies carrying the tricolour and marched through the streets denouncing the police.
BJP’s Hiranagar MLA Kuldip Raj admitted to Kashmir Reader that he met a group of people in the Parashu Ram temple. “We were there and the people were demanding a CBI inquiry. We told them we will raise the issue with the party leadership,” he said.
“Sab log the (everyone was there): NC, BJP and Congress,” he added, refusing to share more details about the meeting.
Two more BJP legislators from Kathua and Samba were also invited to the meeting. They, however, did not attend it, said Kanth Kumar, a prominent leader of the Manch and a former Congress sarpanch who was part of the meeting.
The two former Congress legislators who took part in the meeting and “supported” the demands raised there were Subhash Gupta and Girdhari Lal, Kanth said. Two BJP leaders in Jammu, Reshpal Verma and Durga Das, also participated in the meeting, he said.
“We will support the demands,” these leaders from both the BJP and Congress told the people they met at the Parashu Ram temple, Kanth said. “We were 400-500 people at the temple and they pledged their support to us. Sanji was part of all the meetings. He is an honest person,” Kanth said.
Kanth’s photo along with other Manch leaders and Jitendra Singh, Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s Office, went viral on social media after the girl’s rape and murder drew outrage from across the globe. The viral photo also showed Rakesh Singh (BJP), Yogesh Singh (BJP), Vijay Tagotra (Congress), as well as the BJP’s Kathua chief, Prem Dogra, who, though, is not part of the Manch.
Vijay Sharma, one of the Manch’s vanguard leaders, refused to comment on the meeting, saying the Manch is an “apolitical forum” and he would not comment on politics. “Every party is part of it (Manch): BJP, Congress and NC. But NC removed one its members (for being part of the Manch),” he said, refusing to comment on his sacking from the BJP of which he was the state secretary.
Sharma explained that “apolitical” means that the forum demanded “exemplary punishment” to the accused because such a grisly rape and murder had occurred for the first time in the area. “She is everyone’s daughter. But we want CBI investigations,” Sharma told Kashmir Reader.
In the meantime, according to Gujjar activist Talib Hussain who rallied for justice to the girl, soon after the meeting water supply to two villages – Rasana and Chanmoriya – was disconnected. The little girl belonged to Rasana, which comes under the Hiranagar assembly constituency led by BJP MLA Kuldeep Raj.
The BJP legislator refuted the allegation saying, “water supply wasn’t disconnected”. Kanth Kumar termed the disconnecting of water supply as “propaganda”. He also called the Manch “apolitical” and said it only wants a CBI probe into the case.
“We are against the crime branch investigations because they shifted an officer from Kashmir to investigate the case. Also, another officer (part of the investigations) was an accused in the case,” Kanth said, defending former government official Sanji Ram, saying, “He is of no such character.”
Sanji Ram along with his son and juvenile nephew are among eight persons accused of the rape and murder in the crime branch’s chargesheet that was filed in a Kathua court last week. “We want justice for both the girl and the accused,” Kanth said.
Congress J&K chief GA Mir denied that the Congress had anything to do with the formation of the Manch. He termed the Manch as a BJP “formation” and said that the Congress has issued show-cause notice to Subhash Gupta and others who initially participated in the Manch. “We also removed Kanth and another youth leader after they were seen with the Manch,” Mir said.
Repeated attempts to contact BJP’s state unit president Sat Sharma could not materialise.