Protesters demanding justice for the 8-year-old girl who was raped and murdered | Twitter @Saif_Says
Protesters demanding justice for the 8-year-old girl who was raped and murdered | Twitter @Saif_Says
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DNA sample of the person found at murder site is said to match that of the accused juvenile; 8 people held so far in the case that sparked communal tension.

New Delhi: The Jammu & Kashmir police’s crime branch has almost concluded its probe into the rape and murder of an eight-year-old girl in Kathua district and will submit the chargesheet in court next week.

The horrific crime had sparked communal tension in the Jammu region in January.

The police have so far made eight arrests in the case, including former revenue officer Sanji Ram — who allegedly masterminded the crime — his son Vishal Kumar, a police head constable, two SPOs, a sub-inspector of police, a resident of Rasana village in Kathua and a juvenile.

ThePrint had earlier reported how the incident and subsequent arrests led to communal turmoil in the Jammu region. It had even caused a rift in the ruling PDP-BJP alliance with at least two BJP leaders in Mehbooba Mufti’s cabinet — forest minister Lal Singh Chaudhary and industries minister Chander Prakash Ganga — throwing their weight behind a local group called Hindu Ekta Manch which called the arrests a targeted attack on Hindus, and demanded a CBI investigation into the case.

Crucial evidence and their destruction

In what could be clinching evidence against one of the accused, the DNA sample of a hair strand found at the same site where the victim’s body was dumped, is said to have matched that of the juvenile who was allegedly involved in raping and strangulating the victim, proving his presence at the site, ThePrint has learnt.

Moreover, DNA test reports of hair strands found at a temple where the victim was held captive before she was strangulated had matched with hers. The forensic report proves that she was kept in the Devasthan, which was under the custody of Sanji Ram — the alleged mastermind in the case, sources said.

The victim’s viscera report confirmed the presence of a drug called, Clonazepam, a strip of which was also recovered by the crime branch from the home of one of the accused. Medical reports had also confirmed internal and external injuries on her private parts, confirming sexual assault.

Postmortem reports said she died of asphyxiation and was killed 72 hours prior to the recovery of the body.

The police are awaiting two other forensic reports, including the report on handwriting analysis of Vishal, which could be evidence to prove his involvement in the case.

However, there are allegations of destruction of key evidence by some local policemen who were allegedly bribed by Sanji Ram. A police sub-inspector has been detained for questioning and a head constable arrested by the crime branch for their alleged involvement in destruction of crucial evidence.

Tilak Raj, posted at the Hiranagar police station, was arrested after it was suspected that he had washed her clothes that were soaked in blood and mud before sending them for forensic test. Sub-inspector Anand Dutta, who was the investigating officer, has been detained. Sources claimed  that money had exchanged hands—Sanji Ram had allegedly paid the policemen to destroy the evidence, even though the exact amount is yet to be assessed.

Sources claimed crucial evidence has also been found against Sanji Ram’s nephew. His exact age is yet to be ascertained while previous reports have indicated he is around 19 years old.

Motive of the crime

“The mastermind behind the entire game was bent upon dislodging the Bakerwal community and in order to execute the nefarious design, he hatched a conspiracy (with others),” the SIT said in a status report submitted to the high court.

According to sources, Sanji Ram allegedly motivated special police officer Khajuria and his nephew to kidnap, rape and murder the victim.

The girl was kidnapped on 10 January, after which she was allegedly drugged and raped. Her mutilated body was recovered on 17 January.

Communal tension broke out between the Gujjars and the local Hindus in the region after the incident.

Protests by the Hindu Ekta Manch in the backdrop of the arrests, as well as hate speeches delivered in Jammu and its vicinity during this period further polarised the region given the history of land disputes between the Hindus and the Gujjar and Bakerwal communities.

Also read: The gruesome rape and murder of an 8-year-old that sparked a dirty political battle in Jammu.

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