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.
Lethpora attack: UN urges India, Pak to defuse tensions
Geneva, Feb 20: UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres on Tuesday called on India and Pakistan to exercise “maximum restraint” and offered to mediate in the face of rising tensions following the attack at Lethpora in Pulwama district of Jammu and Kashmir that claimed the lives of 49 CRPF troopers.
Guterres, through a spokesman, said that the UN is deeply concerned about the situation while offering to mediate if the two parties request it.
The head of the UN received on Wednesday the Pakistani ambassador, Maleeha Lodhi, whose government has asked the organization to intervene in the current crisis, Efe reported.
For now, Guterres calls on both sides to “exercise maximum restraint and take immediate steps” to defuse the tension, spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters.
The historic tensions between the two nuclear nations skyrocketed in recent days after New Delhi accused Islamabad of supporting the militant group that killed 49 CRPF troopers in a suicide bombing with a vehicle loaded with explosives on February 14, the deadliest attack in the region in 30 years.
In addition, nine people, including four army soldiers, a cop, and a civilian were killed in a gunfight again in Pulwama on February 18.
Rupert Colville, Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCHR), said the UN was also saddened by the further loss of life reported from the gun battles in Pulwama on February 18.
“We hope escalating tensions between the two nuclear-armed neighbours will not add further to the insecurity in the region” he said.
Colville said the High Commissioner, Michelle Bachelet, is also concerned about reports from India that some elements are using the Pulwama attack as justification for threats and potential acts of violence targeting Kashmiri and Muslim communities living in different parts of India.
“We acknowledge actions taken by the Indian authorities to tackle these incidents and we hope that the Government will continue to take steps to protect people from all forms of harm that may be directed at them on account of their ethnicity or identity,” he stressed.
Following the February 14 attack, India announced that it will take all possible diplomatic measures to isolate Pakistan from the international community.
UN asks additional escorts for military observers:
After one of its vehicles was stopped by a group of protesters in Jammu, the UN has asked the Indian government for additional escorts for its military observers in Kashmir.
“The observer group reported on February 16 that a UN vehicle in the city of Jammu was surrounded by a group of protesters who placed a Pakistan flag in front of the vehicle. The vehicle attempted to bypass the flag but was unable to do so,” Dujarric told the media on Tuesday.
He said the circumstances of the incident was “regrettable and unavoidable” and that the UN Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP) had informed the governments of both countries.
“The Mission also requested India to provide additional escorts and will be conducting an investigation,” he added.
The 44-member UNMOGIP, now led by Uruguayan Major General Jose Eladio Alcain, began operations in 1949 to monitor the ceasefire in Kashmir following up a Security Council resolution the previous year.
India maintains that UNMOGIP has become redundant because under the Shimla Agreement of 1972 between Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and Pakistan’s then-President Zulfikar Ali Bhutto the Kashmir dispute is a bilateral issue with no role for third parties. (With IANS inputs)
Govt downgrades, withdraws ‘security’ of 18 separatists, 155 others
Jammu, Feb. 20: In a major step on Wednesday, the Government of Jammu & Kashmir downgraded and withdrew the security of 18 Hurriyat leaders in the state.
According to the spokesperson of Home Department, it was felt that providing security to these separatist leaders is “wastage of scarce state resources which could be better utilised elsewhere”.
“Among the leaders whose security has been downgraded and withdrawn are SAS Geelani, Aga Syed Mosvi, Maulvi Abbas Ansari, Yaseen Malik, Saleem Geelani, Shahid ul Islam, Zaffar Akbar Bhat, Nayeem Ahmed Khan, Mukhtar Ahmad Waza, Farooq Ahmed Kichloo, Masroor Abbas Ansari, Aga Syed Abul Hussain, Abdul Gani Shah and Mohd Musadiq Bhat,” a government handout said.
This is in addition the 4 persons whose security was withdrawn on Sunday.
In addition, the handout said the security of 155 political persons and activists, who did not require the security provided to them based on their threat assessment and their activities, was also withdrawn. This includes Shah Faesal, who resigned from the IAS and PDP member Waheed Parra.
“Through this, over 1000 police personnel and over 100 vehicles are freed to do regular police work,” the handout said.
Reservation to EWS: Guv welcomes central law’s extension to JK
Jammu, Feb 20: Governor Satya Pal Malik has welcomed the decision of the Union Cabinet regarding giving reservations in admission in educational institutions, for appointments and posts in favour of economically weaker sections of the citizens and giving benefit of promotion in service to the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes.
“The reservation to the economically weaker sections of the citizens will be in addition to existing reservation and subject to maximum of 10 percent of totals seats/posts,” a Raj Bhavan spokesperson said.
It is pertinent to mention that the Constitution (Seventy Seventh Amendment) Act, 1995 provides for giving benefit of promotion in service to the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes and the Constitution (One Hundred and Third Amendment) Act, 2019 provides for giving reservations in admission in educational institutions and for appointments and posts in favour of economically weaker sections of the citizens.
“Both these amendments in the Constitution of India were not applicable to the State of Jammu and Kashmir in the present form. The Union Cabinet’s approval to the extension of these amendments will enable providing of 10 % reservation in admission in educational institutions and for appointments and posts in favour of the economically weaker sections of the citizens,” the spokesperson said.
He added that the move will also give powers to the State for making provisions for reservation in the matters of promotion to any class or classes of posts in the services under the State in favour of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes.
Governor, the spokesperson added, has described these decisions as having far reaching consequences in helping to ameliorate the lot of the weaker sections of society and in ensuring their economic progress and prosperity.
SAC to meet tomorrow
Srinagar, Feb 20: The J&K State Administrative Council (SAC) will meet under the chairmanship of Governor Satya Pal Malik at Raj Bhavan Jammu on 22 February.
This is likely going to be last SAC meeting before Model Code of Conduct (MCC) for General Elections-2019 comes into force.