Kathua rape case: Victim's family abandons Rasana village home out of fear amid rising communal tension

Kathua: The family members of the Kathua rape and murder victim, have abandoned their home in Rasana village out of fear after a strike call was issued by the Jammu Bar Association to protest against the investigation into the case by Jammu and Kashmir police's crime branch.

Late on Tuesday evening, after a general strike was called by the Bar association against the crime branch for "mishandling the case", the victim's father Muhammad Yusuf Pujwala, along with his wife, two children and livestock, left their house silently and suddenly, without informing anyone, only to surface at the house of his brother in Samba district.

The family was supposed to move towards Kashmir next month along with other nomads from the village. "But after the strike and protests were called in Jammu, they decided to abandon their home," Nisar Ahmad Khan, Pujwala's brother, said.

Kathua rape case: Victims family abandons Rasana village home out of fear amid rising communal tension

The spot where the eight-year-old girl's body was found. Firstpost/Sameer Yasir

Khan told Firstpost that Pujwala did not want to leave his house but "felt insecure" living with his family, including his father and mother, at their home amid rising communal tensions in the district.

Pujwala had adopted the girl after his two daughters had met with an accident and died. His wife had asked Pujwala to adopt the girl, who was the daughter of his brother, Akhtar.

Akhtar told Firstpost that his family had tried to motivate them to stay back but they had been feeling alone since she died and were adamant about moving towards the forests. Akhtar said that Pujwala would often say he wanted to see the places, meadows and streams, where "his daughter played like a queen with her horses."

"They left late in the night when no one could see them. They are travelling with their livestock and must have reached Patnitop by now," Akhtar told Firstpost.

The Gujjar nomads in the region spend the summers crisscrossing the mighty Himalayan mountains with their flock of livestock, herding sheep on the lush green meadows, camping along fresh water-streams and selling milk from goats and buffaloes. As the winters set in, they descend on the plains in Jammu, a climatically warmer place during the period of intense chill and snow on the mountains.

Khan said Pujwala and his family feared that their single storied two-room house might be attacked by people from the majority community. "They lived in fear for months and were preparing to move out, but were stopped by our father, who lives near the DC office in Samba," he said.

The eight-year-old nomad girl was, according to the chargesheet filed by the investigators, drugged and raped repeatedly inside a temple in Rasana village of Kathua district – a Hindu majority district where nomads have lived in peace for decades – before she was strangulated and bludgeoned to death with a stone.

The house of Muhammad Yusuf Pujwala and his family, whose eight-year-old daughter was killed recently. Firstpost/Sameer Yasir

The house of Muhammad Yusuf Pujwala and his family, whose eight-year-old daughter was killed recently. Firstpost/Sameer Yasir

"She fell prey to a conspiracy hatched for months by Sanji Ram, the custodian of the temple, where she was held in captivity during the time of her abduction," a crime branch official told Firspost on Thursday in Jammu.

Officials in the state government told Firstpost that the district administration has been asked to look into the matter and ensure that the property of the nomads in Rasana is protected. "We will do everything to ensure that the nomads are not harmed and that their property is protected," an officer in Kathua district administration said.

"They are travelling with 20 horses, 200 sheep and a few dogs,” Khan said, "They will return only in November, but the world which existed earlier for them will not be the same again."

"They were very sad; they lost everything, and we too are thinking of migrating from this place. It is a sad place which will haunt our community," Anwar Ali Gujjar, a resident of Rasna said.

Abdul Haq Khan, law minister in the PDP-BJP government, told Firstpost that no matter what happens, an exemplary punishment would be handed out to people those responsible for the “heinous act”

“It is not about any religion or region or about politics, it is about dispensing justice. It is about giving justice to an 8-year-old who had no idea what her religion is...We all have to leave politics aside and stand for truth and justice. If we can't, then we should leave politics ,” he said.

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Updated Date: Apr 15, 2018 22:33:16 IST

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