A group of protesters demanding justice for the 8 year old victim of Kathua rape-murder case | PTI
Protesters demanding justice for the 8-year-old victim of Kathua rape-murder case | PTI
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J&K crime branch filed chargesheet late Monday evening; Jammu bar association calls bandh Wednesday against police action.

New Delhi: The Jammu & Kashmir police have registered an FIR against a group of lawyers from the Kathua Bar Association who allegedly tried to prevent the crime branch Monday from filing the chargesheet in the rape and murder of the eight-year-old.

There was high drama at the court of the chief judicial magistrate, Kathua, as the lawyers created a ruckus shouting “Jai Shri Ram” Monday afternoon. The J&K crime branch finally submitted the chargesheet against seven of the eight accused late Monday evening.

A separate chargesheet was filed against the eighth accused — a juvenile —Tuesday morning.

The main chargesheet details the roles played by the minor accused in the gruesome crime and includes charges of gang rape, murder, kidnapping, illegal confinement, destruction of evidence and criminal conspiracy under the Ranbir Penal Code, which is applicable to Jammu & Kashmir alone.

Despite police deployment, the crime branch had to wait for more than six hours to submit the chargesheet to the CJM, which sources say, was possible only after interference from the higher authorities. It was alleged that the protesting lawyers had even barged into the court room to prevent the crime branch personnel from filing the chargesheet.

A press release issued by the Kathua Bar Association Monday evening had justified the action of the protesting lawyers, saying the association had “condemned” the way crime branch has dealt with the issue.

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Communal frenzy

ThePrint had reported how the rape and murder of the nomadic girl of the Bakerwal community and subsequent arrests had led to communal turmoil in the Jammu region.

While a newly-formed group, Hindu Ekta Manch, has opposed the arrests of the accused and demanded that the probe be handed over to the CBI, the Jammu & Kashmir High Court Bar Association (Jammu) has also joined the protest since 4 April. It has called for a Jammu bandh Wednesday.

Advocate Vijay Sharma, a BJP leader who heads the Hindu Ekta Manch, had defended the lawyers’ action saying that the protests were a result of the way the crime branch had handled the case.

“Lawyers are also a part of the society. The crime branch has terrorised us by randomly picking up Hindu boys without even an iota of evidence and then torturing them to manufacture confessions. So, why can’t our lawyers protest?” he said to ThePrint.

The conspiracy

The chargesheet filed Monday claims that Sanjhi Ram, who allegedly plotted the crime, bribed local policemen to destroy evidence.

Investigations have revealed that the main accused harboured a lot of hatred against the settlement of the Bakerwals in Rasana and its adjoining Kootah and Damyal villages which are dominated by Hindus. He was allegedly instrumental in motivating his community members in stopping every kind of assistance to the Bakerwals, including land for grazing of their animals.

Investigations also revealed that Ram had once allegedly started a hate campaign against a village resident called Harnam Singh, who had sold his land to a member of the Bakerwal community and took legal steps to stop him from selling the land. He had also seized cattle of a Bakerwal family last December after they ventured into his area.

ThePrint has learnt that Ram as well as two of the accused — the special police officer Deepak Khajuria and constable Tilak Raj — were allegedly against the settlement of Bakerwals in the area as they suspected that Bakerwals practise cow slaughter, indulge in drug trafficking and their children were also drug addicts.

According to sources, there was a rivalry between the two communities in the area, which has already resulted in registration of various FIRs across the police stations in the area. And that is what allegedly motivated Ram to conspire against the nomadic community and plan the crime.

Other details which have come up during the investigation are the fact that the juvenile’s mother was aware of the crime committed by her son and she had allegedly sent a portion of the total Rs 5 lakh promised to the police for destruction of evidence in the crime. Two policemen have been arrested for allegedly washing the blood and mud stains from the clothes of the victim after the body was recovered.

One of them, Anand Datta, had allegedly tutored the juvenile to put the blame on another person who was picked up by them for questioning. They had also deliberately left out crucial evidence from the spot such as the victim’s shawl, necklace, rubber band and her blood samples after the autopsy was conducted, it is alleged.

Apart from forensic test results, which prove that she was kept at the local temple and that the juvenile accused was present at the site where her body was recovered, blood stains found on her washed dress had matched with her.

Moreover, call records of the accused also proved their presence around the crime scene, it is alleged.

Also read: https://theprint.in/governance/inside-story-of-how-one-of-the-most-horrific-rape-murders-of-jk-was-planned-executed/48129/

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