Police investigating the rape and murder of an eight-year-old girl in Kathua say that Sanji Ram, one of the main accused, has told them during interrogation that he learnt about the rape four days after her abduction, and decided to have her killed because his son was also involved in the sexual assault.
The investigators say the girl, who was kidnapped on January 10, was raped on the same day by Ram's nephew, a juvenile, and was killed on January 14. Her body was found on January 17 in a forest. Ram, his son Vishal, the juvenile and five others have been charged in the case.
The investigators said that the girl, from the Muslim Bakarwal community, was kept in a ‘devisthan', a small temple, of which Sanji Ram was the custodian. The aim of the kidnapping was to scare and drive away the nomadic Gujjar and Bakarwal communities from the Hindu dominated area, they said.
Ram’s lawyer Ankur Sharma refused to comment on the investigators' version of the incidents, saying it would not be appropriate for him to discuss the defence strategy. “At least the defence lawyer should not be commenting on the merits of the case. It is like leaking your strategy as a defence lawyer,” he said.
The investigators stated that Ram claimed that he found out about the sexual assault only on January 13 when the nephew confessed to him. He told them that he had performed prayers at the 'devisthan', and asked his nephew to take the prasad home. But the nephew delayed doing so, and in anger Ram beat him up, investigators said.
However, the juvenile thought his uncle had found out that he had raped the girl, and spilled the beans, they said. They claim the juvenile also implicated his cousin, Vishal, saying they both had raped the girl inside the ‘devisthan'.
It was then that Ram decided “that time was ripe to kill the girl so as to achieve the ultimate goal” of scaring away the nomads, according to the chargesheet filed in the case. Investigators say Ram also convinced his nephew to confess to the crime.
Sanji Ram, the investigators alleged, had convinced his underage nephew to confess to the crime but leave his son Vishal out of it, assuring him that he would get him released early from the remand home
On the intervening night of January 13 and 14, the juvenile, Vishal and a friend, Parvesh Kumar alias Mannu, took the victim out of the 'devisthan'. They were later joined by a special police officer Deepak Khajuria who wanted to rape her once more before she was killed, they said.
She was murdered on January 14 as Ram did not want to leave any evidence that would lead to his son, the investigators have found. But things did not go quite as planned, they said.
The body of the child was to be transported and disposed off in the Hiranagar canal nearby. However, a vehicle could not be arranged in time. The juvenile, Vishal, Khajuria and Mannu lifted the body and took it back to the 'devisthan' while Ram kept watch outside, the chargesheet said.
Further investigations revealed that Ram told his nephew and his son the next day that his friend had refused to bring a car so the two had to dispose the body in the forest.
Preparations for the abduction begun on January 7 when sedatives and 'manar' (local cannabis or bhang) were purchased, the chargesheet said. The child was sedated with 'manar' and kept in the 'devisthan' covered with a rug and a mattress weighing nearly 15 kg, investigators said.
A senior Crime Branch police officer investigating the case consumed the 'manar' tablet in front of his colleagues and the medical team to understand the effect of the drug, it is learnt.
The police filed two chargesheets, one for Ram, Ram’s son, Vishal, SPOs Khajuria and Surender Verma and their friend Mannu and another one for the juvenile. While Ram has been charged with murder, kidnapping and destruction of evidence, Mannu has been charged with kidnapping. The other three have rape added to the list of charges.
The chargesheet also names head constable Tilak Raj and sub-inspector Anand Dutta, who allegedly took ₹4 lakh from Sanji Ram and destroyed crucial evidence. They have been charged under Section 120 B of the IPC for criminal conspiracy.
Preparations for the abduction begun on January 7 when sedatives and ‘manar’ (local cannabis or bhang) were purchased, the chargesheet said. The child was sedated with ‘manar’ and kept in the ‘devisthan’ covered with a rug and a mattress weighing nearly 15 kg, investigators said. A senior Crime Branch police officer investigating the case consumed the ‘manar’ tablet in front of his colleagues and the medical team to understand the effect of the drug, it is learnt
Ram, investigators alleged, had convinced his underage nephew to confess to the crime but leave Vishal out of it, assuring him that he would get him released early from the remand home.
Investigators also reconstructed the juvenile's day after he disposed of the body. On the afternoon of January 15, after dumping the body, the juvenile joined other boys playing near the canal in Hiranagar and told a friend, Amit Sharma, about the murder. Later that evening, he accompanied Vishal, who was returning to Meerut, to the station.
Later, according to the daily diary of the police, the juvenile approached the superintendent of police and admitted his guilt. Amit Sharma's statement has been recorded under Section 164 of the Criminal Procedure Code before a magistrate which is admissible in the court as primary evidence.
On January 23, the government handed over the case to the Crime Branch of the state police, which formed a Special Investigation Team and arrested the eight people.
The accused pleaded not guilty on the opening day of the trial in the principal district and sessions court on April 16. The next hearing in the case is on April 28.