A group of women from Jammu and Kashmir has slammed several political groups in the state for “horrifying politicisation and communalisation” of rape and murder of an 8-year-old nomadic girl in state’s Kathua district. In an online petition, the group asserted that ultra-nationalistic discourse is being used to counter the campaigns for justice and shield the culprits.
On Thursday, March 8, a police sub-inspector was detained for questioning and a head constable arrested by the Jammu and Kashmir crime branch for their alleged involvement in destruction of crucial evidence in the case, NDTV reported, claiming that the arrest was made a day after it exposed how the Kathua police that initially handled investigations into the case had destroyed crucial evidence.
The petition has been launched by 14 women including Anuradha Bhasin, executive editor of the Kashmir Times, Shehla Rashid Shora, former vice president of the Jawaharlal Nehru University Students’ Union, and author Nitasha Kaul.
Pertinently, two Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) ministers including Forest Minister Choudhary Lal Singh and Industries Minister Chander Prakash Ganga attended a rally recently organised by the Hindu Ekta Manch, an outfit that has been protesting against the arrest of a man in the case. Besides, the BJP’s MLAs from Kathua and Hiranagar constituencies, Rajeev Jasrotia and Kuldip Raj, were also present at the rally.
Asifa Bano’s body was found in the forests of Rassana on January 17, a week after she went missing. “Her body bore torture marks and she had been raped before she was killed. It need not be elaborated that Asifa belonged to the marginalised and downtrodden nomadic tribe whose vulnerability and victimisation is well recorded,” the statement read, adding, “sequence of events shows that there has been a deliberate attempt by a section from within the government to thwart the process of investigations in the case, right from the time of her disappearance. News reports have pointed out the reluctance of the police to lodge a missing report and begin a manhunt to trace the girl.”
“Even after her body was recovered, the necessary process of investigation including collection of evidence and recording of statements was not adequately done. Instead, the family of the victim and those campaigning for justice have been constantly harassed and intimidated,” the petition reads.
Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti also condemned the attempts to communalise the discourse around the horrific rape and murder in Kathua, and expressed faith that the people of Jammu would not allow this to succeed.
The investigations have shifted hands from the first Special Investigating Team (SIT) comprising police to a second SIT to the Crime Branch, which is presently probing the case, according to the petition.
“A minor boy and two SPOs have been arrested as prime suspects but the investigations are not making much headway. While the Crime Branch is following the legal procedure, the pace of work is being obstructed by the pitch of communalization and politicization. Any attempt to shift the case to any other investigating agency at this juncture would further hamper the investigations and we fear that this may be done with a design to shield and protect the guilty.”
Apprehending that a deliberate attempt to hush up the case by building up a communal narrative around the heinous crime and its investigations is being made, the petition further reads: “Shockingly, the vested interests trying to sabotage the investigations through the communalisation of the crime and its politicisation do not only include a fringe right wing group but also two sitting senior ministers in the PDP-BJP ruling alliance. Such a situation has further encouraged other political groups to counter the narrative not from the victim’s perspective but for petty political goals and for fuelling the communal discourse.”
The group has urged the state government to ensure that investigations by the Crime Branch are fast tracked and are fair to be followed by a fast track court trial so that justice can be dispensed.