Protests in Kashmir over rape, murder of 8-year-old Bakerwal girl in temple
NEW DELHI: Protests are rife and communal tension at a high pitch in Kashmir over the rape and subsequent murder of 8-year-old Asifa, a minor girl from the Bakerwal committee. The eight-year-old was gangraped thrice inside a Devasthan or prayer hall, after the mastermind had “performed rituals”. The entire conspiracy was allegedly pre-planned to “dislodge” a group of Bakerwal Muslim nomads from Rasana village in Kathua near Jammu.
The girl was kidnapped and confined using sedatives, then strangled and hit on the head twice with a stone — “in order to make sure” she was dead. But not before another accused, a police personnel, asked the others to “wait because he wanted to rape” her one last time.
These are just some of the horrifying details of the 18-page chargesheet filed on Monday by J&K Police’s Crime Branch against the eight accused in the rape and murder of the girl who went missing from near her house in Rasana on January 10 — her body was found seven days later in the forests nearby.
In the days that followed, as per the chargesheet, the accused paid Rs. 1.5 lakh as a bribe to local policemen who knew where the girl was kept and helped to initially cover up the crime.
The killing had sparked outrage across J&K with the government handing over the case to the Crime Branch following protests from the Bakerwal community. The case took a communal turn in Kathua, where an outfit called Hindu Ekta Manch was set up by politicians in support of the accused. Among those who backed the Manch were Lal Singh and Chander Prakash Ganga, two BJP ministers in Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti’s Cabinet.
According to the chargesheet, the mastermind behind the rape and murder is retired revenue official Sanji Ram who is among the eight arrested, along with his son Vishal Jangotra and nephew, believed to be a juvenile.
The Crime Branch had also arrested Special Police Officers (SPOs) Deepak Khajuria and Surinder Kumar, a Rasana resident Parvesh Kumar, Assistant Sub Inspector Anand Dutta and Head Constable Tilak Raj in the case. Dutta and Raj were arrested on charges of attempting to destroy evidence.
According to the chargesheet, the girl’s father Mohd. Yousuf lodged a complaint on January 12 that his daughter who “had gone for grazing horses in the nearby forest around the afternoon on January 10” had not returned. A FIR was lodged and police arrested Ram’s nephew, leading to allegations of a cover-up by the Bakerwal community. On January 22, the case was transferred to the Crime Branch.
The chargesheet states that Ram masterminded the conspiracy to kidnap and, later rape and kill the girl. It states that he made SPO Khajuria and the juvenile a “part of the conspiracy and assigned them tasks separately and individually”.
According to the chargesheet the girl was repeatedly administered sedatives while being kept in the accused’s custody inside a temple and raped repeatedly by the three. The entire plan” worked out by Ram and Khajuria with “Parvesh Kumar aka Mannu, his close friend, and asked for his help”.
On January 10, the juvenile saw the girl asking about her horses. He told her that “he had seen her horses and led her to the jungle”. “He also called accused Mannu. Sensing some trouble, the victim tried to flee but the juvenile stopped her by catching hold of her neck and covered her mouth with one of his hands and pushed her and she fell on the ground,” the chargesheet says.
“The victim fell unconscious and was raped by the juvenile (in the jungle). Thereafter, Mannu also attempted to rape her. They took her and kept her inside the Devasthan and then covered her. She was constantly administered sedatives to keep her under control
“On January 11, the juvenile informed another accused Vishal Jangotra about the kidnapping of the girl telephonically and asked him to return from Meerut in case he wanted to satisfy his lust,’’ the chargesheet says. He subsequently returned to Rasana.
By now, it says, a police, including Khajuria, had started searching for the girl. “Khajuria…came to the house of accused Sanji Ram and advised the juvenile to ensure administering of sedatives to the victim in time,’’ the chargesheet says. A bribe of Rs. 1.5lakh had already been paid to Khajuria by the accused. The chargesheet says that Head Constable Raj, who was part of the search party, had asked Ram to bribe the police team. On January 12, Ram sent Rs. 1.5 lakh to Raj through the juvenile’s mother, it says.
On January 13, the chargesheet says, “…accused Vishal Jangotra, the juvenile and accused Ram went to the Devasthan where Ram performed rituals”. Later, it says, Jangotra “raped the nomad girl. Thereafter, the juvenile also raped the girl”.
After keeping the girl in the prayer hall for days, Ram directed the other accused to kill her and “dump her (body) in the forest”.
“…the accused Mannu, Vishal and juvenile took the victim from the Devasthan to a nearby culvert… accused Khajuria told the juvenile to wait as he wanted to rape the girl before she is killed,’’ the chargesheet says.
Describing the murder, the chargesheet states: “After committing the barbaric act of rape on the minor victim, the accused Khajuria tried to strangle her to death. However he was unsuccessful in killing her, the juvenile killed her by pressing his knees against her back while strangulating the girl by applying force on both the ends of her chunni. Thereafter, the accused, in order to make sure that the victim is dead, hit her twice on head with a stone.’’
The body was dumped inside the prayer hall as the accused couldn’t find a vehicle to transport it. On January 15, the chargsheet says, Ram “directed” the other accused to “throw the body in the jungle’’.