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One year on, fear and agony without end for family of Kathua victim

Press Trust of India

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Jammu, Jan 17 : The headlines may have faded away but the fear is constant, the grief seemingly without end, says the family of an eight-year-old girl whose body was found in a jungle in Jammu and Kashmir’s Kathua district on this day a year ago.
The case of the child from a minority nomadic community, who was allegedly abducted while she was grazing horses and kept in captivity in a temple where she was gangraped before being bludgeoned to death, is nearing its final stages in a court in Pathankot in Punjab, officials said on Thursday.

Eight people, including the custodian of the village temple in Kathua and two policemen, have been arrested for their alleged role in the crime that stunned the country with its brutality and polarised society along communal lines.

While the law takes its course and the world moves on after the initial shock, for the family, the trauma continues, casting long shadows over their everyday lives. “We are still in shock,” said her father in a phone interview with PTI.
The family, which migrates to the higher reaches of Kashmir during the summer months, have returned to their village but normalcy is still a far cry.

 

“There is constant fear and I do not send my children outside. They remain confined inside the house… How can I send my other children after what happened?” he asked.

He said their anxious wait for a judgement continues. “We lost our girl but I hope no parent has to undergo this kind of pain ever,” he said.
The case went through several twists and turns, including efforts by the district police to “cover up” for the main accused, till the Crime Branch stepped in and came out with a charge sheet giving details of events leading to the horrific crime.

According to officials, the prosecution has closed its evidence at the sessions court at Pathankot, which is hearing the case on the direction of the Supreme Court.

The case is at the stage of charges being read out to the accused before the defence makes its final submission in the case of a child, who came to be known simply as the Kathua gangrape-murder victim.

The apex court shifted the case to Pathankot in May last year after the state as well as some lawyers approached it with a plea that they did not expect a fair trial in Kathua.

The Crime Branch arrested eight people – temple custodian and main accused Sanji Ram, his son Vishal, special police officers Deepak Khajuria alias Deepu and Surinder Verma, Parvesh Kumar alias Mannu, head constable Tilak Raj and sub-inspector Arvind Datta.

Sanji Ram’s nephew, a juvenile, was also arrested. His trial is yet to begin as police is contesting his claim of being below the age of 18.
The Pathankot court framed charges under various sections of the Ranbir Penal Code, applicable in Jammu and Kashmir, including 120-B (criminal conspiracy), 302 (murder), 376-D (gang rape) and 328 (causing hurt by poisoning with an intent to hurt).

The two policemen were also charged under Section 161 (public servant taking illegal gratification) of the RPC.

According to the charge sheet, the child was abducted on January 10, killed on January 14 and her body recovered on January 17.
Sanji Ram is alleged to have hatched the conspiracy with other accused as a carefully planned strategy to remove the minority nomadic community from the area.

According to the charge sheet, she was kept sedated in the small “devisthan” and repeatedly sexually assaulted before she was bludgeoned to death.
On January 23, about a week after the body was discovered, the government handed the case to the Crime Branch, which formed a Special Investigation Team.

Sanji Ram surrendered on March 20 after his son was arrested from Uttar Pradesh a day earlier.

Investigations revealed that Sanji Ram gave Rs 4 lakh to the police officers probing the case in three instalments.

The charge sheet explained in detail how the accused police officials destroyed crucial evidence by washing the clothes of the victim before sending them to the forensic laboratory and created false evidence at the scene.

A supplementary charge sheet listed in chilling detail the cocktail of sedatives, including cannabis, forcefully given to the child.

She was given ‘mannar’ (local cannabis) as well as Epitril 0.5 mg on an empty stomach, it said.
“She was forcefully administered five tablets of Clonazepam of 0.5 mg each on January 11, 2018 which is higher than the safe therapeutic dose.

Subsequently more tablets were given…The signs and symptoms of an overdose may include drowsiness, confusion, impaired coordination, slow reflexes, slowed or stopped breathing, coma (loss of consciousness) and death,” according to the medical expert’s report submitted along with the charge sheet.

It said the tablets could have pushed her into a state of shock or coma.

 

As CM I tried to ensure justice for victim: Mehbooba

Srinagar, Jan 17: Former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister and People’s Democratic Party (PDP) president Mehbooba Mufti on Thursday said that during her tenure as chief minister she tried her best to ensure justice to rape and murder of an eight-year-old girl in Kathua.
Taking to social networking site Twitter, Mehbooba wrote: “Today marks a year since the horrific rape & murder of an eight-year-old girl in Kathua. Sadly, instead of condemning such a gruesome incident, BJP lawmakers staged protests in favour of the rapists. Even a crime like rape was communalised & passions were stoked to justify it.”
“As a CM I tried my best to ensure justice was done. Can only hope that the accused are punished severely so that no other girl has to endure such pain and trauma,” Mehbooba wrote on Twitter.
In January 2018, an eight-year-old girl Asifa Bano was raped and then murdered in Rasana village in Kathua district of Jammu and Kashmir. The victim belonged to the nomad Bakarwal community. All the accused including four police officers were later arrested.
The inhumane incident that shook the global community saw the political and communal tug-of-war in April, months after her body was discovered. As the enraged society reacted, two BJP ministers had to put in their papers. The incident eventually contributed to the collapse of the BJPDP government.


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Biz leaders of JK, PaK meet in Tashkent

Appeal India, Pak to resume cross LoC trade

Firdous Hassan

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Srinagar, Jun 24: For the first time since the Cross LoC trade was suspended, the business leaders of Jammu and Kashmir and Muzaffarabad met in Tashkent and decided to approach the respective governments for early resumption of the trade.

The decision was taken in a three-day conference of the business leaders of both sides of LoC, which is currently underway in the Uzbekistan’s capital Tashkent. Six business leaders representing Chambers of Commerce of Kashmir and Jammu are participating in the conference, which started on Sunday. 

Trade leaders from Mirpur Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MCCI) and Traders Union Rawalakot are representing the business community of Pakistan Administered Kashmir (PaK) in the conference.

 

The three-day meet has been organized by Muzaffarabad-based Centre for Peace, Development and Reforms (CPDR), which works to “promote peace and development at all levels through dialogue, reconciliation and reforms.”

On the second day of the conference on Monday, the traders resolved to convey to their respective governments the need for early resumption of cross LoC trade.

President Kashmir Chamber (KCC&I), Sheikh Ashiq Ahmad, while speaking to The Kashmir Monitor over the phone from Tashkent, said the traders held threadbare deliberations on the resumption and strengthening of the Cross LoC trade.

“It was resolved that all the Chambers will take up the matter related to the reopening of Cross LoC trade with the respective governments,” he said.

On April 18, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) suspended the Cross-LoC trade in J&K, saying that it was being used for “funneling illegal weapons, narcotics and fake currency” into the state.

More than 280 traders were hit by the decision. Figures reveal that goods worth Rs 6,900 crore were traded on both sides since the inception of the trade in 2008.

On the alleged transporting of incriminating material through the route, Ahmad said the traders pledged to push their respective governments for framing Standard Operation Procedures (SOPs) for ensuring greater transparency in the trade.

“We are for the transparency of the trade. Both the countries should frame SOPs wherein necessary measures should be taken to check such activities. It was made amply clear that the traders should concentrate on the trade while as the government must ensure transparency,” he said.

The participants also realised that the suspension of the Cross trade was causing huge losses to the business community on both the sides.

“Traders on both the sides of LoC are incurring huge losses. The Cross LoC trade was the biggest Confidence Building Measure between the two countries. It should be resumed immediately,” said the president, KCC&I.

He said the conference was aimed at exploring all options to ensure hassle-free trade across the border. 

Before suspension, the Cross LoC trade was being carried out for four days a week on both routes—Srinagar-Muzaffarabad and Poonch-Rawalakote.

Started in October 2008, Cross-LoC trade was considered the mother of all confidence building measures between India and Pakistan. However, the trade could not grow beyond the barter system.

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Mehbooba welcomes Hurriyat’s readiness for dialogue

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Srinagar, Jun 24: Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) President Mehbooba Mufti Monday welcomed the Hurriyat Conference willingness to hold talks with the Centre saying it was ‘better late than never’.

“Dair aye durust aye [better late than never]. The underlying purpose of the PDP-BJP alliance was to facilitate dialogue between the GoI & all stakeholders. Tried my best to make it happen in my tenure as Chief Minister but relieved that Hurriyat has finally softened their stand,” former Chief Minister Mehbooba said in a tweet.

Mehbooba Mufti was referring to Hurriyat (M) chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq’s call for a tripartite talk between the Kashmiri leadership, New Delhi and Islamabad for resolution of all issues, including Kashmir.

 

Besides touching on the need for a dialogue during his Friday sermons at Jamia Masjid, the Mirwaiz in his Eid-ul Fitr sermon earlier this month had sought confidence-building measures between India and Pakistan that could facilitate the revival of talks between the two countries.

Governor Satya Pal Malik, while addressing a function in Srinagar on Saturday, had said the Hurriyat had softened its stand and were ready for talks after he took charge of the state in August last year.

“The Hurriyat Conference was not willing to talk. Ram Vilas Paswan was standing at their door (in 2016) but they were not ready to talk. Today, they are ready for talks and want to hold dialogue. There is change in everyone,” Satya Pal Malik said.

The governor’s statement has given rise to speculations that the Centre might be opening dialogue channels with the separatists in Kashmir in near future.

Talks must be held with them: Farooq

Srinagar, Jun 24: Two days after Governor Satya Pal Malik said that Hurriyat leaders were ready for talks with the Central government, National Conference (NC) president Farooq Abdullah on Monday asserted that talks must be held.

“The Governor says Hurriyat has agreed to talks. Then, talks should be held with them,” Abdullah told the media persons.

Contending that situation in J&K “is changing”, Governor Malik had on June 22 said that Hurriyat leaders were ready for talks with the Centre.

“The ones who turned back Ram Vilas Paswan from their door, they are now ready for talks. The stone pelting after ‘namaz’ is almost over. We do not like it when a youngster dies,” Malik had said at a function.

“But when a bullet is fired, bullets will be fired in retaliation. That is the reality and this change in stance by them is a welcome sign,” Malik had further added.

He had also acknowledged Hurriyat (M) chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq for his statement in which he had expressed concerns over the growing drug crisis in the state.

Within ‘ambit of Constitution’: BJP

Srinagar, Jan 24: BJP’s JK Affairs in-charge Avinash Rai Khanna has said that the Government of India was ready for talks with the Hurriyat ‘within the ambit of the Indian Constitution.’

Khanna also said that this was being done to win the trust of every individual in the state.

“We are open for talks. Hurriyat leaders are own people, they are the residents of J&K so they are most welcome to talk to us including the Prime Minister Narendra Modi but within the ambit of Indian constitution,” Khanna said.

Earlier, PDP Chief Mehbooba Mufti said that she is relived that Hurriyat has softened their stand regarding talks with the Government of India.

Recently, Governor Satya Pal Malik’s said that Hurriyat is ready for talks.

In response, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq has said that if Government of India initiates ‘meaningful dialogue’, there will be a ‘positive response’.

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J&K Reservation Bill introduced in LS

Press Trust of India

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New Delhi, Jun 24: People living along the International Border (IB) in Jammu and Kashmir will get benefits of reservation in direct recruitment, promotion and admission in professional courses on par with those living along the Actual Line of Control (ALoC), according to a bill introduced in the Lok Sabha on Monday.

The Jammu and Kashmir Reservation (Amendment) Bill, 2019 will replace an ordinance issued by the previous government.

The Bill was introduced by Minister of State for Home G Kishan Reddy on behalf of Home Minister Amit Shah who was present in the House.

 

Some members from the Opposition wanted to oppose introduction of the bill but speaker Om Birla rejected their demand, saying they had not followed the procedure for doing so.

The bill seeks to provide relief to people living in areas adjoining the International Border in Jammu and Kashmir. They can now avail benefits of reservation in direct recruitment, promotion and admission in different professional courses.

The bill once passed by Parliament will amend the Jammu and Kashmir Reservation Act, 2004 to bring persons residing in areas adjoining the IB within the ambit of reservation, on par with those living in areas adjoining the ALoC.

The rules provided for reservation in direct recruitment, promotions and admission in different professional courses to various categories, including residents of areas adjoining ALoC.

Those living in areas adjoining the IB in Jammu and Kashmir were not  included in the ambit of the Jammu and Kashmir Reservation Act, 2004 and Rules, 2005 and were deprived of benefits.

Due to continuous cross-border tensions, people living along the IB suffer from socio-economic and educational backwardness. Shelling from across the border often compels residents to move to safer places, which adversely impacts their education as schools and colleges remain closed for long periods.

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