The Jammu and Kashmir police's investigation into the rape and murder of *****, an eight-year-old girl in Kathua, is now in its final stage. The incident, which took place in January, was a major political flashpoint in the state.
The police, which is expected to file a chargesheet in the case next week, has marshalled significant evidence to prove its case in court.
The body of the girl from the Bakherwal community was recovered from Rassana forest in Kathua on 17 January, a week after she went missing while grazing horses in the forest area.
According to a report in The Print, a post-mortem report indicated damage to the girl's uterus and death due to asphyxiation. The police will present this as evidence that she was raped, and that she died after being strangulated with her shawl.
A separate report by The Print also says that the DNA of a hair strand found at the site where her body was dumped matches with the DNA of one of the accused.
Available evidence is also said to have confirmed that the girl was held captive inside a temple before the murder, police officials said. Top sources in the state police crime branch said that the DNA of hair strands found inside the temple matched with those of *****.
The postmortem report of the victim has already confirmed that she had been sedated before being raped and murdered.
Sanji Ram, a retired official of the revenue department is believed to have masterminded the heinous crime to create fear among the nomad 'Bakerwal' (goatherd) community in the village so that they could be pushed out.
He is the custodian of the temple where the girl was allegedly held in captivity.
Nine accused, including the alleged mastermind Ram, his son Vishal Kumar, a police head constable, two special police officers (SPOs) and a sub-inspector of police have been arrested in the case.
Political temperatures in Jammu and Kashmir escalated after the arrest of Deepak Khajuria, a police officer who allegedly abducted the victim, kept her in confinement for seven days, and then murdered her. The Hindu Ekta Manch in the state has claimed Khajuria to be their member. A report by Sameer Yasir on Firstpost said that Khajuria was among those appointed to trace the victim after she went missing.
Soon after the incident, members of the Hindu Ekta Manch marched through the streets of Kathua with the tricolour to press for the release of the arrested persons. The protesters later changed their demand and sought a CBI inquiry after severe criticism from different quarters, including the chief minister. Two BJP ministers — Lal Singh and Chander Prakash Ganga — visited the protesters and supported their demand for a CBI probe.
The BJP has alleged that one of the members of SIT investigating the case himself was involved in a "twin murder and rape case of Hindu boy and a girl".
On 8 March, Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Mehbooba Mufti had rejected the demand for a CBI probe and said the probe was almost 95 percent complete.
Separatist groups in the state also expressed rage over the rape and murder. At a joint protest rally, Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Yasin Malik demanded death penalty for those responsible for the crime.
Activists speak out against communalisation of case
A women's roundtable conference, organised by NGO Fahad Mir Foundation of Jammu and Swar Raga of Haryana on 7 April, said that crimes should not be politicised or communalised, and should be dealt as per law.
A report by the Concerned Citizens' Group, headed by former external affairs minister Yashwant Sinha has referred to the incident as the 'latest issue that has flagged the rise in communalism in Jammu,' according to Rising Kashmir.
With inputs from agencies
Updated Date: Apr 15, 2018 22:51 PM