Kathua rape case: Defiant lawyers bring Jammu to a halt 

Lawyers, opposing the arrest of eight accused in the murder, rape of an eight-year-old nomad girl from Kathua, brought the winter capital city of Jammu and Kashmir to a standstill on Wednesday

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Ashutosh Sharma

Lawyers in Jammu brought the city to a standstill on Wednesday to protest the filing of the chargesheet and arrest of the eight accused in the rape and murder case of eight-year-old Asifa.

Upping the ante, the lawyers of the Jammu Bar Association have also demanded the ouster of Rohingyas and Bangladeshis along with the nomadic tribes. Jammu Bar Association claims that the Rohingyas and Bangladeshi refugees, officially acknowledged to be less than 10,000 persons in the state, pose a threat to Jammu’s predominantly Hindu demography.

The legal fraternity in Kathua attempted to prevent the police from filing the charge sheet, accusing the high court-monitored Special Investigating Team, led by Ramesh Kumar Jalla, an officer with an impeccable track record, of fabricating evidence and implicating the accused with links to the Hindu Ekta Manch.

Eight-year-old Asifa was abducted, drugged, confined in a temple, gang raped and killed. She belonged to the nomadic Bakerwal tribe. The 60-year-old Sanji Ram is alleged to be the mastermind behind the conspiracy to drive nomads away from the area and the rape and murder of the child was part of it.

The total population of Jammu & Kashmir is 1.25 crore. Gujjars and Bakerwals are said to be around 1.5 million (11.5%), a majority of whom are said to be nomads. In summer they move to the upper reaches and return to the plains of Jammu during the winter.

The 60-year-old Sanji Ram is alleged to be the mastermind behind the conspiracy to drive nomads away from the area and the rape and murder of the child was part of it

While the lawyers’ conduct has come in for widespread criticism, President of Supreme Court Bar Association Vikash Singh condemned the protest by Jammu lawyers on Wednesday. “Nobody should support bandh by lawyers. Because lawyers are supposed to uphold rule of law but are obstructing the wheels of justice; I see a very dangerous trend emerging in the country,” he told a news channel.

The president of the Jammu Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Rajesh Gupta, called the bandh ‘unjustified’.

Earlier, Chief Justice of Jammu and Kashmir High Court directed the police to provide security to advocate Deepika Singh Rajawat—who is arguing Asifa’s case. President of the Jammu Bar Association had allegedly threatened her on court premises a few days ago and advised her to stay away.

The lawyers in Jammu, many of them with links to organisations affiliated to the RSS, also wanted revocation of the minutes of an official meeting in which it was decided that tribals would not be evicted from land they have occupied over the years nor would they be harassed by police over transportation of cattle.

The bandh was also observed in Kathua, Samba and Udhampur district headquarters where protesters led by lawyers blocked national highway and burnt tyres to block vehicular movement. Carrying the tricolour flag, the protesters chanted slogans against the coalition government in the state.

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Published: 11 Apr 2018, 10:30 PM