The entire country is enraged after the details of the brutality in Kathua rape case emerged in the public domain. The innocent face of the eight-year-old girl, who became a victim of this gruesome crime, will continue to haunt people’s minds for years. Two persons who uncovered this case, which broke all the boundaries of cruelty and inhumanity, had to face innumerable difficulties, communal hatred and threats in the process.
The first officer is Ramesh Kumar Jalla, the Senior Superintendent of Police at Crime Branch, Jammu. Jalla is a Kashmiri Pundit and his family was among many which had to leave their houses and properties and settle outside Kashmir. But this did not deter him from carrying out his responsibilities, as he put in all his efforts to try deliver justice to the eight-year-old rape victim. He did not give up till he succeeded in tightening the grip over the accused persons.
According to evidences gathered by Jalla’s team, the eight-year-old was kidnapped and kept in a temple in Kathua, where she was repeatedly raped, tortured and finally murdered. Jalla finished the investigation in record time and submitted his chargesheet on April 9, ten days before the time limit of 90 days determined by the High Court was due. During the investigation, he had to face opposition and protests by various groups. He even received threats to his life.
The charge sheet features names of four police officials and one retired government officer as accused. According to the charge sheet, the retired government official was, in fact, the mastermind behind the brutal crime.
It is mentioned in the charge sheet that the objective of the crime was to scare away the tribal Bakerwal community from the Hindu majority areas. According to police, the eight-year-old girl was kidnapped from near her home and was kept in a temple, situated close by. She was drugged and kept unconscious. Mastermind Sanji Ram also performed some rituals on her before she was raped. The charge sheet also says that the accused also called a relative from Uttar Pradesh to rape her.
A Special Investigation Team (SIT) was formed under the leadership of Ramesh Kumar Jalla to investigate the case. Jalla handed over the responsibility of leading the SIT to a young police officer, Naveed Pirzada, who had an immaculate performance record. Naveed Pirzada is considered an expert in solving difficult cases. In the beginning, neither Ramesh Kumar Jalla nor his deputy Naveed had an inkling that the junior officials of their own department would be party to this crime.
According to available information, the accused had made a foolproof plan. The police had, in a way, got hold of the accused but they had neither opened their mouths nor had they uttered a single word about the role of local police. They had instead tried to misguide the investigation by saying that a local boy had committed the crime out of sheer immaturity and impulse. When Ramesh Jalla and Naveed’s team looked at pictures of the eight-year-old’s body closely, they found out that it was at places covered with mud. But this mud was completely different from the soil of the place where the child’s corpse was found. This determined the fact that she was murdered somewhere else. But where? The question remains difficult to answer.
The SIT acquired some more photos of her body from records. The SIT was shocked to see that these pictures showed no soil marks on her body. This made the team suspicious that someone from inside the police itself was tampering with evidence.
Finally, it was revealed that the girl’s clothes were washed to hide the evidence. The police arrested eight persons, along with Sanji Ram in this matter. His son Vishal Jangotra and minor nephew are also among the arrested. Initially, it was said that this crime was committed by his nephew only. When the police visited the temple for the first time, they could not find anything which could prove that the child was kept there. But then they saw a room which was locked. Sanji Ram had the keys to the room. The police recovered a bunch of hair from the room, which was sent for a DNA examination. One strand of hair showed that DNA matched with that of the eight-year-old rape victim.
Meanwhile, people started coming in support of the accused. The pressure was rising increasingly on Jalla and his team. They started facing problems in completing their investigation. There were protests and strikes in a bid to delay the filing of charge sheet on time.
Jalla originally belongs to Srinagar and he joined the police force as an inspector in 1984. With sheer hard work and perseverance, he reached the rank of SSP, Crime Branch. He worked round-the-clock to prepare a strong charge sheet. A special police officer, Deepak Khajuriya, Surinder Kumar, Assistant Sub Inspector Anand Dutta, Head Constable Tikarad and Parvesh Kumar and a local resident have also been arrested in the case.
These people are accused of tampering with the evidence and washing the girl’s clothes. According to the charge sheet, these persons gave Rs 1.5 lakh to conceal the crime. People were enraged with this incident of gruesome rape and murder. After the outrage, the government had handed over the responsibility of its investigation to the crime branch.
Right-wing group Hindu Ekta Manch had created hurdles in the investigation and took out marches in support of the accused. They even tried to stop the police team when it reached the court to submit the charge sheet.