New Delhi, Apr 27: Police investigating the rape and murder of an eight-year-old girl in Kathua say that Sanji Ram, one of the main accused, has told them during interrogation that he learnt about the rape four days after her abduction, and decided to have her killed because his son was also involved in the sexual assault.
The investigators say the girl, who was kidnapped on January 10, was first raped the same day by Ram’s nephew, a juvenile, and was killed on January 14. Her body was found on January 17 in a forest.
Along with the juvenile, Ram and son Vishal, five others have been charged in the case, which has shaken the nation and led to the government promulgating an ordinance mandating death sentence for the rape of a child aged 12 and below.
The investigators told PTI that the girl, from the Muslim Bakarwal community, was kept in a ‘devisthan’, a small temple, where Ram was the custodian. The aim of the kidnapping was to scare and drive away the nomadic Gujjar and Bakarwal communities from the Hindu dominated area, they said.
Ram’s lawyer, Ankur Sharma, refused to comment on the investigators’ version of the incidents, saying it would not be appropriate for him to discuss defence strategy. “At least the defence lawyer should not be commenting on the merits of the case. It is like leaking your strategy as a defence lawyer,” he told PTI.
Sanji Ram claims he found out about the sexual assault only on January 13 when the nephew confessed to him, according to the investigators. He told them that he had performed prayers at the devisthan, and asked his nephew to take prasad home. But the nephew delayed doing so, and in anger Ram beat him up, investigators said.
However, the juvenile thought his uncle had found out that he had raped the girl, and spilled the beans, they said. They claim the juvenile also implicated his cousin, Vishal, saying they both had raped the girl inside the ‘devisthan’.
It was then that Ram decided that “time was ripe to kill the girl so as to achieve the ultimate goal” of scaring away the nomads, according to the chargesheet filed in the case.
Investigators say Ram also convinced his nephew to confess to the crime.
On the intervening night of January 13 and 14, the juvenile, Vishal and a friend, Parvesh Kumar alias Mannu, took the victim out of the ‘devisthan’. They were later joined by a special police officer Deepak Khajuria who wanted to rape her once more before she was killed, they said.
She was murdered on January 14 as Ram did not want to leave any evidence that led to his son, investigators have found.
But things did not go quite as planned, they said.
The body of the child was to be transported and disposed of in the Hiranagar canal nearby. However, a vehicle could not be arranged in time. The juvenile, Vishal, Khajuria and Mannu lifted the body and took it back to the ‘devisthan’ while Ram kept watch outside, the chargesheet said.
Further investigations showed that Ram told his nephew and his son the next day that his friend had refused to bring a car so the two had to throw it in the jungle.
Preparations for the abduction had started on January 7 when sedatives and manar (local cannabis or bhang) were purchased, the chargesheet said.
The child was sedated with manar and kept in the ‘devisthan’ covered with a rug and a mattress weighing nearly 15 kg, investigators said.
A senior police officer of the crime branch investigating the case consumed the manar tablet in front of his colleagues and the medical team to understand the effect of the drug, it is learnt.
The chargesheets — a separate chargesheet was filed for the juvenile — named Ram, his nephew, his son Vishal, SPOs Khajuria and Surender Verma and friend Mannu.
While Ram has been charged with murder, kidnapping and destruction of evidence, Mannu has been charged with kidnapping. The other three have rape added to the list of charges.
The chargesheet also names head constable Tilak Raj and sub-inspector Anand Dutta, who allegedly took Rs 4 lakh from Sanji Ram and destroyed crucial evidence.
All of them have been charged under Section 120 B of the IPC for criminal conspiracy.
Investigators have also reconstructed the juveniles day after he disposed of the body.
On the afternoon of January 15, after dumping the body, he joined other boys playing near the canal in Hiranagar and told a friend, Amit Sharma, about the murder. Later that evening, he accompanied Vishal, who was returning to Meerut, to the station.
Ram, investigators claimed, also convinced his underage nephew to confess to the crime but leave Vishal out of it, assuring him that he would get him released early from the remand home.
Later, according to the daily diary of the police, the juvenile approached the superintendent of police and admitted his guilt.
Amit Sharma’s statement has been recorded under Section 164 of the Criminal Procedure Code before a magistrate which is admissible in the court as primary evidence.
On January 23, the government handed over the case to the Crime Branch of the state police, which formed a Special Investigation Team and arrested the eight people.
The accused pleaded not guilty on the opening day of the trial in the principal district and sessions court on April 16. The next hearing in the case is on April 28.
3 militants killed in Budgam encounter
Srinagar, Jan 21: Three militant of Hizbul Mujahideen outfit were killed in an encounter at Hapatnar woods in Charar-e-Shareef area of central Kashmir’s Budgam district on Monday.
News agency Global News Service quoted a senior police officer saying that a joint team of Army’s 53 RR, SOG and CRPF launched a cordon-and-search operation in forest area of Hapatnar early Monday morning following “credible inputs” about the presence of some militants.
As the joint team of forces intensified the combing operation, the militants hiding in the area opened fire triggering off a gunfight which continued intermittently till late in the evening.
During the course of gunfight, three militants belonged to Hizbul Mujahideen outfit were killed, the officer said.
The operation was prolonged due to the tough terrain amid inclement weather conditions, he added.”So far one body has been recovered along with arms and ammunition. The other two bodies which are lying inside the hideout are yet to be retrieved,” the officer said.
“The identity of the slain is being ascertained,” the officer said.
The officer said that the government forces have also blasted the hideout of the militants in the mountainous area, covered under plenty of snow.
Meanwhile, sources identified one among the slain Shahid Baba of Drabgam, Pulwama. (With inputs from GNS)
Snow, rains persist: Land, air traffic disrupted
Srinagar, Jan 21: Although not as severe as predicted, fresh snowfall and rains were Monday lashed Kashmir bringing some respite to the people from the cold wave.
The plains of Kashmir witnessed moderate rainfall from early hours of Monday, while there were reports of snowfall in higher reaches of the valley, officials said here.
The MeT Office has forecast widespread rain and snow over the state with heavy falls at isolated places till Tuesday.
Meanwhile, traffic on the 300-km long Srinagar-Jammu highway was halted because of heavy snowfall on the stretch.
“Today no movement of vehicular traffic on Jammu Srinagar NHW from Jammu towards Srinagar and vice versa as road blocked due to snow accumulation at Nowgam-Jawahar Tunnel-Qazigund Sector and still snowing,” J&K Traffic Police tweeted Monday morning.
Bad weather conditions also disrupted operations at the Srinagar International Airport here, leading to the cancellation of four flights, officials said.
“Due to the inclement weather, four of the 27 flights to and fro Srinagar were cancelled on Monday,” an official of the Airport Authority of India.
Another 11 flights got delayed due to poor visibility and intermittent rainfall since Monday morning, he said.
The minimum temperature in Srinagar on Sunday settled at minus 0.3 degree Celsius, same as previous night, a MET official said.
He said Qazigund, the gateway town to the valley, in south Kashmir recorded a low of 0.6 degree Celsius, while the nearby Kokernag town registered a low of minus 0.3 degrees Celsius Sunday night.
The mercury in Kupwara town in north Kashmir settled at a low of minus 0.6 degree Celsius. Gulmarg ski-resort in north Kashmir recorded a low of minus 4 degrees Celsius Sunday night, while Pahalgam tourist resort, in south Kashmir, recorded a low of 0.2 degrees Celsius, the official said.
He said Leh, in the frontier Ladakh region, recorded a low of minus 5.6 degrees Celsius, while the mercury in Kargil registered a low of minus 14.0 degrees Celsius. Kargil was the coldest recorded place in Jammu and Kashmir, colder than even Drass town which recorded a low of minus 6.8 degrees Celsius.
Kashmir is currently under the grip of ‘Chillai Kalan’, the 40-day harshest period of winter when the chances of snowfall are maximum and the temperature drops considerably.
‘Chillai Kalan’ ends on January 31, but the cold wave continues even after that in Kashmir. The 40-day period is followed by a 20-day long ‘Chillai Khurd’ (small cold) and a 10-day long ‘Chillai Bachha’ (baby cold).
Lack of funds halts vital JK tourism projects
Srinagar, Jan 21: The Governor-led administration is mulling to start new projects to boost tourism in Kashmir even as several old ones have been left midway due to want of funds.
In December last year, the administration ordered the constitution of an official panel for identification of new projects in tourism sector to be implemented under Prime Minister’s Development Package (PMDP).
Back in 2014, the Government of India, under Project/Infrastructure Development for Destination and Circuits (PIDDC), had sanctioned Rs 7593.88 lakh for development of basic tourism infrastructure in Jammu and Kashmir through private investment, opening of new potential destinations and development of heritage, adventure, and pilgrim and eco-tourism.
However, the projects have been left incomplete as the Centre has, as per the latest official data, released only Rs 3504.80 lakh of the sanctioned amount against which the department shows 100 percent expenditure.
Now, due to the unavailability of funds, the PIDDC project is on standstill.
The project included development of Eidgah, face-lifting of Khankahi Moula, Development of Jamia Masjid Heritage Corridor, Renovation of Aali Masjid, Upgrading of Ziyarat Abdul Razaq Sahib at Hawal, Ziyarat Hazrat Balaad Rumi at Rajouri Kadal, Ziyarat Akhoon Sahib and TajBibi at Fateh Kadal, Ziyarat Hazrat Noor Shaha Sahib at Narwara, and Conservation of areas from Naagar Nagar to Watlab.
The tourist circuit from Naagar Nagar to Watlab, which was a key component of the project, still requires Rs 2312.90 lakh to be completed, official data shows.
Another main component of PIDDC project, construction of Trans Himalayan Culture Centre in Leh, too requires further Rs 1094.48 lakh for completion.
Similarly, development of Khiram Shrine in South Kashmir’s Bijbehara town also remains incomplete for want of funds.
Section Officer of Planning, Tourism Department, Sajad Ahmad, told The Kashmir Monitor that “65 per cent” of the work has been completed on Naagar Nagar to Watlab component of the project.
“We had to stop the work because the Centre did not release the funds,” he added.
Executive Engineer, JK Tourism, Abdul Qayoom Kirmani said they have asked the Government of India for the pending funds and also sent to them the proposal of the new projects.
“We have identified new Rs 100 crore new projects under PMDP-II, which comprises of nine circuits,” he said.