Kathua Victim: A Quest for Natural Justice

The Kathua rape case refers to the barbaric event of the kidnapping, alleged rape and killing of an eight-year-old innocent girl in January 2018 in Rasana village of Kathua district in the state of Jammu & Kashmir (J&K), India. The victim belonged to the nomad Bakarwal community who was reported missing for about a week before her body was recovered from the jungle near the house of the alleged chief conspirator in the case. The incident became national news after there was a protest by the local Bar Association against the investigating agency, their alleged attempt to stop filing of the charge-sheet and simultaneous hijacking of the case by the social and national media, political parties and other groups, some of them trying to give it a communal colour, thereby sparking widespread protests and outrage.


A nomad Bakarwal Muslim family of Rasana village filed FIR on 12 January 2018 at the local Hiranagar police station about their missing eight years old daughter earlier gone out to look after their grazing horses on 10 January. The police was unable to trace, her dead body was found on 17 January 2018 in the local jungle and taken into custody by the police for autopsy. The post mortem was conducted by a team of doctors at the District Hospital in Kathua on the same day. The case was initially investigated by the local police but was transferred to the Crime Branch and Crime Headquarters, J&K on 22.01.2018. A total of eight people, including four police officers, have been arrested so far as a part of the larger conspiracy.

One retired civilian Sanji Ram has been charged with the conspiracy to murder and dislodge Bakarwal community from the Sasana area, his juvenile nephew and son with rape and murder, two police officers for taking part in conspiracy, rape and murder, and another two police officers for accepting money to cover up and destroying evidence. Thus a total of eight accused (7 adults & 1 juvenile) have been arrested and a charge-sheet filed by the Crime Branch of the J&K police on 12 April 2018 in the court of the Metropolitan Magistrate of Kathua. The charge-sheet is based on the extensive interrogation of the accused supported with some forensic evidence collected by the sleuths from the spots of crime.

Salient Points of the Charge-Sheet

  • A FIR was filed on 12.01.2018 by the father of the missing girl in the police station Hiranagar that his daughter (name Xxxxx), aged 8 years had gone missing after going to the nearby forest with horses since 10.01.2018. He suspected kidnapping of the girl by some miscreants and investigation taken up by local police.

  • The investigating officer made efforts to trace out the missing girl with the help of VDC (village defence committee) members and respectable of the area but did not get any clue about the victim. Subsequently, on 17.01.2018 dead body of the victim was recovered on the tip of a person in the nearby forest and the post mortem was conducted at District Hospital Kathua on the same day.

  • During investigation by the local police, one individual namely Shubam Sangra (juvenile) residing with his maternal uncle Sanji Ram in village Rasana, was taken into custody, who confessed to have detained the victim in a shed till 16.01.2018, attempted to rape her, strangulated with her chunni fearing Bakarwals might kill him on knowing the incident, threw her on the ground hitting her head twice with a stone. He further divulged that he used to take alcohol, cigarettes, gutka and other intoxicants and had been expelled from Modern Public School Sikdi, Hiranagar, because of his unruly behaviour with girls of his school, and consequently he was staying with his maternal uncle for the last three months.

  • Accordingly, the said individual was arrested on 19.01.2018 by the local Police, alleged stone was recovered and seized, and the accused sent to the juvenile home under the orders of the Chief Judicial Magistrate, Kathua.

  • Subsequently, the investigation of above referred case was transferred to Crime Branch and Crime Headquarters J&K on 22-01-2018 for further investigation of the case. On the basis of inputs provided by the juvenile and other accused persons arrested and questioned in custody, the plan of the main accused Sanji Ram to dislodge the Bakarwal community from Rasana area was unearthed by the Crime Branch. There are a total of eight accused; the chief conspirator Sanji Ram, his son and nephew, another associate and four police officers – two of them were heavily bribed by the chief conspirator.

  • Rest of the events revolve around a Devisthan where the girl was detained for six days and kept her under the table over two Chatayees (plastic Mats) and then covered her with two Darees (cotton thread Mats), repeatedly drugged and raped by some of the accused, till finally killed and body disposed of in the nearby forest.

The charge-sheet gives graphic details of even insignificant points and routines of the accused persons, repeated use of drug and rape on the victim, decision of the chief conspirator to kill her, bribing of the investigating police officers, some efforts for the forensic matching, reference of some earlier disputes and rivalry between two communities, and so on so forth.

The charge-sheet also held that the investigations regarding the complete financial trail are underway. The charge-sheet further mentions that one accused, a student of BSc Agriculture at Akansha College Mirapur, Meerut, UP who allegedly took active part in the rape and murder of the victim, has tried to create an alibi using heavy kickback from his father and main accused by resorting to the manipulation of records and creation of false evidence with the connivance and assistance of the college authorities and some other employees of Choudhary Charan Singh University Meerut. Further investigation is underway and this would necessitate submission of a supplementary charge-sheet.

Aftermath of the Gruesome Event


The gory details of the rape and murder of an eight years old innocent girl indeed evoke a nation-wide horror, anguish and despair. The case occurred in January 2018, it invited attention of several leaders of the ruling and opposition in the State Assembly and protests by the local people but it caught wide attention and coverage only around the filing of the charge-sheet in April 2018, protest by the Bar Association at Kathua against the investigation of the Crime Branch and almost simultaneous high jacking of the issue by the national media, social media, opposition politicians particularly the Congress and Left parties and other interested groups including some from JNU.

The case drew a widespread condemnation from various walks of society, individuals and groups through the national electronic and print media reporting and social interaction forums like Facebook, Whatapp and such other means. The opposition parties and civil groups staged protests in J&K and outside. Mehbooba Mufti, Chief Minister J&K talked about fast-track completion of inquiry and mandatory death penalty for the convicted individuals in the rape case of a minor. Menka Gandhi, the Indian Minister of Women and Child Development too spoke in favour of the death penalty in cases of child rape with the assurance to move a case to amend 'The Protection of Children from Sexual Offenses Act' in this regard.

The Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi, as well as the Supreme Court of India, made statement condemning the incident and assurance that justice will be served in the case. The Congress (main opposition) and Left parties condemned the lawyers' protest and presence of BJP leaders among the protesters casting aspersions on the ruling party that the protests were part of a well-thought-out conspiracy to polarise communities in the state by giving communal colour to the criminal act. The media coverage and publicity on religious and communal lines has also attracted the interest and attention of the international media and institutions in the matter.

Consequently, United Nations (UN) have expressed hope and opinion that the Indian authorities will bring perpetrators to justice and even UN Secretary-General has described the incident as "horrific" and stated that the "guilty must be held responsible". Ironically, The New York Times Editorial Board has preferred a personal attack on the Indian Prime Minister in their editorial with scathing remarks that Mr Narendra Modi loses out his voice when it comes to speaking out about the dangers faced by women and minorities who are frequent targets of the nationalist and communal forces that are part of his BJP. The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) too have published somewhat similar critical reports citing religion and cast of the victim, blaming Hindu right-wing groups and casting aspersions on judiciary if a satisfactory system at all works in India to deliver justice.

A number of celebrities including Cine artists and prominent politicians have voiced anger and disappointment over the incident. A candlelight march was  held at India Gate, New Delhi on 12 April 2018 under the aegis of the Congress party. It was attended by the top leaders of the party including Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi, Priyanka Gandhi, Ghulam Nabi Azad and a host of the other Congress leaders. Many left leaders, rationalists and intellectuals expressed their disgust and resentment over the incident passing blame on the right wing nationalists and communalists (an obvious dig at the ruling BJP). Protests have been carried out by several civil groups in various parts of the country including Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai. The incident has led to a widespread anger and tension across the J&K. The fact that a Hindu temple has been reported as the venue of the criminal acts, has further generated a lot of communal animosity and tension. Reacting to reports in media, some people including celebrities have gone to the extent of saying that they are ashamed of being Hindu and in Hindustan.

Bar Association and Hindu Ekta Manch

The majority reports pouring in the media appeared to be judgemental in nature even before the trial of the accused persons who are constantly pleading innocence, seeking CBI inquiry and own Narco Analysis Test. Their cause, rightly or wrongly, was undertaken by the agitating local lawyers and newly constituted Hindu Ekta Manch, in turn receiving a widespread condemnation and rebuff. A deeper exploration revealed that the said Hindu Ekta Manch was formed to protest against the modus operadi adopted by the Crime Branch team which allegedly detained, harassed and even tortured while interrogating a large number of innocent people from Rasana and surrounding villages when the investigation commenced. This allegation has, however, been denied by the Crime Branch. The author feels that all sides should be given fair opportunity and consideration to know the facts and truth.

It is indeed a fact that a gathering of lawyers of the Kathua Bar Association had caused hindrance to the crime branch officials filing the charge-sheet and called for a bandh, rendering virtually all courtrooms in the Jammu Division non-functional for some time. The frequent change in the investigation teams and presence of a tainted officer in the final team were chief reasons for the lack of faith in the investigation team. At the time of the incident, the State Assembly session was on and the issue was raised by several members of the ruling PDP, opposition and Hurriyat leaders. Consequently, the government suspended the Station In-charge and sub-inspector of the Hiranagar police station charging them for dereliction in duty in recovery of the victim. Then the government immediately constituted a special investigation team (SIT) under a DySP. While the SIT had commenced investigation, the government constituted yet another Investigation Team of the Crime Branch and Crime Headquarters J&K with majority officers from Kashmir. This obviously caused suspicion, distrust and unrest among the local people which was further aggravated with the modus oparandi adopted by the Crime Branch team.

On the woman counsel’s allegation, the head of the bar association replied that her allegations were only to attract media attention and publicity. He said thay nobody stopped or threatened her for representing the victim’s family. She was, however, requested to abide by the resolution of the Bar Association being a beneficiary of every facility provided by the Bar. The lawyers insisted that they had demanded transfer of the case to the CBI much before filing of the charge-sheet and this demand was not communal; instead, it was in the interest of the victim’s family who themselves had initially favoured CBI investigation to get justice. Lawyers hold that for them it did not matter if the victim is a Muslim and the accused Hindu.

They felt that the investigation through the Crime Branch was being done to appease the separatist sentiments and demand in Kashmir Valley. Around 40 or more kids were summarily picked up from various villages in and around Rasana by the Crime Branch team; they were hit, beaten and tortured by the investigating officers to give statements that were manufactured by the police. They had apprehensions that the Crime Branch team will not do justice; hence they were demanding a CBI probe. On the other hand, the victim’s lawyer and Talib Hussain, a local Gujjar leader and an alleged sympathiser of the separatists in Kashmir, argued that if the matter goes to the CBI, justice will never be served.

Media Response:

In India with a population of over 1300 million people, there are more than a hundred private TV news channels in national and regional categories in different languages. Of these, broadly Hindi (about 22) and English (about 12) private channels fall in the category of the national news channels because of their receptivity and coverage of the majority population and wide geographical outreach. Every channel is in a cut-throat competition to outnumber the rest in TRP ratings. Then many of them have allegiance and leanings towards the political parties and corporate houses. These factors often lead to selective, biased, sensational and even scandalous reporting of issues in pursuance of an agenda. Some of them appear not even bothered how their reporting will vitiate the social and communal harmony or portray a wrong image of the country nationally and internationally.

In the instant case, contrary to the legal provision and requirements, social moral and ethical norms, the media has gone full throttle to publish the name, photo and religion of the girl once such details of the victim and accused persons were known. The social media particularly played a decisive role to give it a publicity from the religious and communal angles circulating provocative messages and disinformation. Consequently, different narratives emerged out of the same incident. It dominated the national scene for more than a week of reporting without any inhibition or bars. Though different media sources have presented the case differently, but broadly the following two chief narratives have emerged:

Narrative One - One set of narrative have emerged from the reporting of the channels which have either leaning towards the left or left-centric political parties or the media channel itself claims to be voice of intellectuals, liberals and rationalists for the common man in the country. They tend to blame the current Federal Government and so often the Head of the Government (by name) for anything that goes wrong in the country. This affirmation by the author may appear harsh but unfortunately it is truth and actually happening these days. For illustration, a few excerpts of the reporting of the Kathua murder case by a famous anchor of a well-established media channel is briefly reproduced below.

“…the mask has been thrown out by the society. That we care for daughters, this pretension has been exposed. The way police station was gheraoed, slogans of ‘Jai Shree Ram’ were raised, you won’t be able to see Rama eye-to-eye. So called Religious Gurus too didn’t raise objection because their shop will be closed… … …I have been telling for months together, in your India, a crowd is under making. It is in standby, just a waver is awaited, and if you are not alert enough, this crowd will take you away – either to kill you or get somebody killed by you…”

“…Eight years girl was raped in the temple thrice, thereafter the criminals did puja-path (worship), rituals too. One rapist was called from Meerut. The Girl was kept unconscious on drugs, she was repeatedly raped then strangulated. She died but to rule out any chance, her head was twice hit on a stone so that her death is assured. She died…did you listen? She died. Did you hear correctly that she died? It is very essential that you know that after giving anaesthetic drug, raping, strangulating and hitting her head on the stone, she died. Then a police officer says, hold on…he wants to rape her once more…and all this was done to dislodge Bakarwala Muslims from Kathua, Jammu. All this is written in the charge-sheet, I am telling it from there…”

These are only a few citations from the lengthy, sensational and outrageous reporting by the famous TV anchor at the private news channel. Another private channel which constantly boasts of having the highest viewership nationally had also claimed the presence of a cellar in the temple which was repeatedly used for the alleged criminal act. Going by the narratives of these media houses, any rational person would wonder if the subject of the programme is to keep viewers aware and assist in seeking justice for the little girl or exploiting the crime to play a hate agenda against a particular community, political party and the federal government. The usual settled position of the law is that accused defendant is treated innocent until proven guilty. Instead of being judgemental, should the media not leave it to the law enforcing agencies to independently decide guilty and quantum of punishment.

The matter didn’t stop here, the reporting has not only been judgemental, the anchor even added scenes from own imagination, which are not even recorded in the charge-sheet. For illustration, the charge-sheet refers to the rape before the killing of the victim while the anchor has added the story of an accused cop who indulged in rape with the dead body too. The charge-sheet mentions about a ‘prima facie rape’ based on the post mortem report (a confidential document) by referring to the hymen not found intact, lacerations and blood stains in the private parts. Incidents of rape cited in the charge-sheet are primarily based on the confessional statements of the accused persons made during the interrogation under the custody of the Crime Branch sleuths. In the very first hearing before the trial judge, all the accused have pleaded not guilty and requested for their Narco Analysis Test.

Narrative Two - Another section of the media has been equally concerned and agitated but remained more balanced and judicious in reporting of the unfortunate incident. For instance, while unequivocally condemning the crime and underlining the need for the fastest justice to the family of the victim and harshest punishment to the guilty men based on truth and facts, another media channel has carried out detailed verification of the points made in the charge-sheet through their team visiting crime spots at Sasana, Kathua and meeting people on ground. Some of the important points submitted by the channel are as under.

Culprits are those who raped and killed the innocent girl but they are also culprits who are trying to give communal and political colours to the case. Many people are demanding the CBI probe and accused themselves for the Narco Test because the families of accused have no faith in the investigation of the Crime Branch citing the following reasons:

  • The one room temple (referred to as Devisthan in the charge-sheet) has four windows and three doors where people from three villages are coming daily for worship. How can a girl be kept hostage there for so many days without being detected by the visitors?

  • How can a father ask his own son and juvenile nephew to rape an eight years old girl?

  • The place where the body of the girl was recovered is very near to the accused Sanji Ram’s house. Why would a person throw or get thrown the body of the dead girl near own house after crime?

  • If the version of the local people is believed, a bhandara (feast) was held at the temple on 15 January while according to the Crime Branch the girl was detained in the temple till 15 January 2018

  •  Accused Sanji Ram’s son was in Meerut, Uttar Pradesh and giving examination in a college. How can he be present simultaneously at two places at the same time?

The media channel argues that these points need a thorough examination to unravel facts and truth. The charge-sheet of the Crime Branch added following dimensions:

1) the crime was carried out in a Devisthan;
2) People carrying out the misdemeanour were Hindus; and
3) the victim was a Muslim.

Besides, people are also agitated because the Crime Branch team included an officer who was charged with a murder and rape. It is also alleged that the said officer has very cordial relations with the Hurriyat (separatist) leaders.

It was also divulged by the Rasana people to the media team that the Crime Branch had constantly detained and tortured many people in the police station during the investigation. People of Rasana also claimed that initially all people including the family of the victim were demanding independent probe by the CBI but, subsequently, a local leader Talib Hussain, who runs a NGO and spreads Hurriyat Conference’s agenda in Jammu, incited and persuaded the family for the investigation by the Crime Branch. The channel further argues that the culprits should be given the harshest possible punishment based on the ‘facts and truth’ and not on an ‘agenda’.

Role of Foreign Media:

Irresponsible media, some politicians with vested interests and self-proclaimed intellectuals and liberals in India often aggressively debate and publicise lopsided and selective narratives of events. The international media and press, which are most often not aware of the ground realities, pick up and exploit such narratives and half-cooked data to make own story to criticise and tarnish the image of this country. Kathua case was no exception and the very mention of a temple as crime venue and the victim and accused from to two different communities in the charge-sheet served the well needed food for thought. The author has himself seen the reports on Kathua case by the BBC and New York Times and simply finds them an outrageous concoction of half-truth and misrepresentation of facts. In various accounts, the case has been portrayed as communal event, linked with Hindu nationalism and apex leadership criticised citing women and minorities are not safe in India; even judiciary has not been spared.

Consequently, the author made some study about the crime against the women across the world. However, here only the position of UK and USA vis-à-vis India is being considered. During 2016, the estimated population of the UK, USA and India was 65.6, 323.4 and 1324.2 million and the corresponding official rape figures were approximately 35,798, 95,730 and 38,947, respectively. Even a cursory look at the data reveals that the rape crime against the women in USA and UK is many times high compared to India. Data on rape may not always be absolutely accurate but it gives a fair idea about the incidence and gravity of crime in the country. One may find several reports in the public domain on top ten in terms of the total incidents of rape and countries like USA, South Africa and Swedan are usually found in the top three, followed by UK and India with other developed countries like Canada, Germany, France and Australia close behind. Here the total population of the country is relevant to ascertain the relative gravity of crime in the respective countries.

Wikipedia has compiled the official figures of the rape crime up to 2010 in respect of countries based on police record and the position for the last three years in respect of UK, USA and India is reproduced below:

Total Count –––– Number per 100000

Country 2008 2009 2010 2008 2009 2010
UK (Scotland) 821 884 15.9 17.0
UK (England & Wales)* 12673 13096 15074 20.67 21.19 24.23
USA 90750 89241 84767 29.8 29.0 27.3
India 21467 21397 22172 1.8 1.8 1.8

*Number per 100000 has been worked out on population and total count
Source: Wikipedia and relevant official websites of countries

It is said that in India the instances of rape crime against the women remain unreported in some cases due to social taboos. A 2013 study revealed that rape may be grossly under-reported in the United States. Another study in 2014 suggested that police departments in United States eliminate or undercount rapes from official records in part to create the illusion of success in fighting the violent crime. Readers may please note that the purpose of the exercise here is not to prove “I am better than thou”, instead, simply to put a mirror before such media and nationalities. Rather than casting aspersions on others, they should better have introspection to set their own house in order rather.

With such data and gory details available in the public domain, India doesn’t need any teaching or preaching from the BBC, New York Times or United Nations. The fact is that occurrence of even one such crime against women and children is abhorable and horrific enough for any civilized society and calls for zero tolerance and remedial measures. The Indian government through an urgent cabinet meeting has decided on 21April 2018 to bring an Ordinance with the provision of death penalty in the event of such crimes against women below the age of 12 years to be followed by a comprehensive legislation addressing all aspects.

Author's Analysis and Remarks

Many narratives have emerged expressing shock, anguish, anger and despair over the unfortunate incident. Similarly many versions too have emerged citing gory details based on the ground reporting, hearsay and even twisting of the facts and records. Broadly, these narratives fall in two categories cited under the 'Media Response' section above i.e. one category of people having already accepted what has been recorded in the charge-sheet but yet to be established in a judicial trial while other category is willing, even at the cost of criticism, to further examine in an endeavour to finding out facts and truth, if any, so that only the real culprits are punished which will also be true tribute to the victim girl.

Like any other conscious and conscientious person, the author too is agitated over the alleged brutal rape and killing of the little innocent girl. Now her life cannot be restored back but an exemplary punishment to the culprits based on the facts and truth will at least serve some justice and obeisance to her soul and solace to her grieving parents. So the author wishes to further ponder and analyse the points raised by the people of Rasana but not addressed by the J&K government or Crime Branch in their charge-sheet.

Investigation Team and Charge-Sheet:

The charge-sheet has recorded the findings of the initial inquiry by the local police and subsequent investigation and findings of the Crime Branch with different narratives and contrasts:

The first few pages of the charge-sheet are dedicated to the investigation and findings of the local police. According to this, the juvenile accused was an addict of alcohol, cigarettes, gutka and other intoxicants and had been earlier expelled from his School because of his unruly behaviour with girls of his school. He allegedly confessed of knowing the victim well, abducting and detaining her in the cattle shed, made an attempt to rape her and killed her fearing she would reveal the truth to her family, in turn Bakarwals might kill him.

Once the case is handed over to the Crime Branch, the scope, direction and narrative completely changed. According to the findings of the Crime Branch; Firstly, the rape and murder of the girl was a part of the deeply hatched conspiracy to dislodge the Bakarwal community from the Rasana are; secondly, the venue of the six days detention, rape and murder of the victim was a Devisthan (small temple); thirdly, it was a hate crime by one community against the other wherein the innocent girl became a soft target.

As it has emerged now, the case was initially investigated by the Hiranagar poice station. The Officer-in-charge and a sub-inspector (now accused) were suspended and a SIT was constituted which was again promptly replaced by another SIT comprising of the Crime Branch officers mainly from Kashmir. All these developments took within 5-6 days making people of Rasana suspicious about the situation. In a country where the citizens have a right to information even without divulging with own details and purpose, in the absence of viable reasons and justification for frequent change in investigation teams in such a sensitive case, it is surprising that many people have expressed doubts and distrust in the final team.

Demand for CBI Probe:

The case was initially investigated by the local police, a juvenile nephew of the alleged chief conspirator was apprehended and sent to judicial custody with the crime scene reported as a cattle shed. However, amid the growing tension and protests of people demanding for the CBI probe including the family of the victim, the state government had constituted two successive SITs, the last one under the Crime Branch and Crime Headquarters J&K. Ground reports also suggest that a local leader allegedly close to Hurriyat in Kashmir incited and persuaded the victim's family for investigation by the State Crime Branch. Many people in Rasana village, particularly the family members of the accused personnel, are still demanding a CBI probe as they do not have faith in the investigation and modus operandi of the Crime Branch.

People have specifically objected to the induction of the majority officers from the Valley and more particularly an officer named Inspector Irfan (aka Urfan) Wani in the Crime Branch investigating team who is tainted with murder and rape charges, and allegedly also have cordial relations with the separatist Hurriyat leaders in Kashmir. The author checked up the position of charges against the said officer and the findings are as under:

Irfan Wani was charged with the custodial murder of one Rishi Kumar on 24 April 2007. He was also charged for the rape of Rishi Kumar’s sister on 25 April 2007 in the police station. The officer remained in judicial custody (jail) from October 2009 and got bail in March 2011. The trial for the alleged murder and rape started in April 2009 and October 2010, respectively. The case dragged on for about seven years and Wani was acquitted of all charges on 11 May 2011. Subsequently, he was re-inducted in service with all consequencial benefits. During the above period, he also received treatment for the psychiatric problems.

From the above account, it appears that he must have been restored to routine police service duties only some time last year. This history was apparently not in the prior knowledge of the SSP in-charge of the Kathua investigation. He, however, defended his inclusion as he has already been cleared of the said charges, and in doing so he well within the established rules. Ethically, however, considering Wani's recent history and the sensitivity of the case, his inclusion in the SIT could have been avoided to rule out controversies and apprehensions. After all, the government may not have dearth of competent officers with unblemish record. Now that the charge-sheet has been filed, this demand and controversy must end as the accused persons will have opportunity for self-defence during the judicial trial.

Narco Analysis Test:

Having been denied the demand of the independent CBI inquiry, the accused personnel and their families are consistently pressing for the Narco Analysis Test@. Their request in the given circumstances appears reasonable and may find a favourable response during the trial.

[@The Narco Analysis test is a kind of a psychological test. A drug named sodium pentothal is given with slow IV infusion and the person is monitored. He (or she) develops a dissociative state during the test i.e. the original personality severs the association with his (or her) consciousness. Consequently, the inhibition of the person fades; while in a stage of consciousness, the person can suppress what he does not wish to release, but in the dissociative state, he effortlessly expresses the truth or suppressed information of his sub-conscious mind. Though it is difficult to say that it is a 100% guaranteed truth extraction method but it is the most effective clinically used method on date to extract truth or information from the subconscious mind.]

The Conspiracy Theory:

As per the charge-sheet of the Crime Branch, the rape and murder of the girl was part of a plan of chief conspirator Sanji Ram to dislodge the Bakarwal Community from Rasana area, and the idea has been brewing in his mind for quite some time. In pursuance to that he made accused Deepak Khajuria, an SPO in the Police Department and own nephew as part of the conspiracy. In support the said theory, the charge-sheet refers to some unspecified past rivalry, conflicts and consequent FIRs between the two communities (Dogra Hindus and Bakarwal Muslims), presumably intensity and seriousness of such incidents will be divulged with during the trial by the prosecution.

In the context of the conspiracy theory, the author accessed some recent press interviews of the father of  victim, readily available in the public domain. He could be easily seen wherein he says, "Hindus are our brothers; they helped us to settle in the area; and we use their fields for the grazing by our sheep and goats. The atmosphere of uncertainty and distrust has been created only after the alleged incident and formation of the Crime Branch..." The available ground information also suggests that after the alleged gruesome rape and murder of the child, initially both Hindu and Muslim communities had protested and pressed together for a CBI inquiry in the case till the Bakarwals were incited and persuaded by Talib Hussain, a local activist and leader, in favour of the investigation by the Crime Branch. There appears no past history of any serious conflict at community level between two groups.

Senior army officers too have vouched that the nomad Bakarwals are a community of patriots and they have rendered very useful intelligence information about the enemy movements across the border from time to time. However, as per the charge-sheet, there were disputes between two communities, few scuffles between the accused SPO Deepak Khajuria and Bakarwals, and a particular community (i.e. Hindus) had a general impression that the Bakarwals indulge in cow slaughter and drug trafficking and that their children were turning into drug addicts. In the light of different views, the truth appears to be trapped in between the various conflicting versions which will, hopefully, emerge after a free and fair trial in the case.

Devisthan as the Place of Crime:

The charge-sheet holds a Devisthan (temple) as the venue of the conspiracy and crime where the victim was allegedly kept as hostage for six days (10 to 15 January), drugged, tortured and repeatedly raped. This is also perhaps the most sensitive and sensational point in the alleged conspiracy apart from the crime of rape and murder because it raises moral and ethical issues besides giving a communal colour to the whole issue. Post-filing of the charge-sheet, the people of Rasana appear to be particularly agitated and angry about it. Several videos and versions have also come out as collateral evidence contradicting the Crime Branch theory in the charge-sheet.

The devisthan appears to be a small one-room temple of Kul Devta/Devi for three surrounding villages including Sasana. Almost everywhere, Hindus across the country have similar concept of Devisthan with Kul Devta or Devi considered as very pious place for them. Such temples get added significance from the point of view that the deity(ies) installed there receives first offering(s) from the devotee families on the religious and social occasions including festivals. This particular temple has a small room with four windows (all open with grill) and three doors with hardly any privacy. So much so that even if the temple is closed/locked, anybody can have a full inside view. As per charge-sheet, the key of temple was only with Sanji Ram, while people in Sasana maintain that there are six keys of three doors to Devisthan, all kept in different households of three villages and a master key remains with Sanji Ram. People of all three villages come to Devisthan to lit jyoti and worship.

Sasana people say that a hostage detained there cannot remain unnoticed for so many days. Besides, with Lohri on 13 January and Makar Sankranti on14 January, the temple had hectic activities of people including a Bhandara. It is difficult to endorse that on such occasions, the Devisthan housing Kul Devta (deity) will not have any visitors from these villages. However, the Crime Branch would certainly know better what they have recorded in the charge-sheet. People talk about Bhandara (feast) at the temple but the same finds no mention in the charge-sheet. Hence the aftermath has no relevance, both the prosecution and defence will get enough time and opportunity to prove their point during the judicial trial.

Father Endorsing Rape:

This relates to the delicate social issue of human morality and ethicality. The charge-sheet holds it but the family members deny it. The family members and people of Rasana say how a father can ask his own son and nephew to commit the heinous crimes of the rape and murder of a little girl. This aspect is indeed troubling many other conscientious people across the country too. After all, going by the charge-sheet, other than the juvenile accused who is stated to be habitual of alcohol, cigarettes and gutka, none of the other seven accused persons have the past history of any crime or addiction. Presumably so, had there been any such history of accused persons, the Crime Branch would not have missed or hesitated to declare them as habitual offenders to strengthen own prosecution case.

The Crime Branch has charged the son of the Chief accused Sanji Ram for the rape, murder and creating alibi by forging documents and heavily bribing the chairman of the college, officials of the University concerned and a local person, highlighting the need for further investigation to establish this collusion. As stated in the charge-sheet, the accused juvenile went to Devisthan in the evening at about 5.00 PM on 11 January 2018 for lighting jyoti and checking the girl. Thereafter, he telephonically informed the accused son of Sanji Ram to return from Meerut in case he wanted to satisfy his lust and the said accused reached Rasana from Meerut on 12 January by 6.00 AM. The prosecution would really have to work hard to sustain this practically very difficult preposition in view of the distance, available transport means and other considerations.

Disposal of the Dead Body:

This is yet another debatable point in the charge-sheet. The place from where the body of the victim was recovered is very close to the house of the alleged chief conspirator Sanji Ram. The people and family members of the accused in Rasana say why would a man throw or get thrown the body of the victim near own house after the crime? According to the charge-sheet, decision to dispose of the body in the canal was abandoned because a car could not be arranged. The same charge-sheet also holds that it was a long conspired and thought out plan. It indeed appears strange that Sanji Ram as a resourceful man and at least two co-conspirator police officers with practical experience in the criminal law could not anticipate the risk of keeping body near own house besides failing to manage the safe disposal after the crime.

Communalisation of Case

The charge-sheet refers to the conspiracy to dislodge Bakarwals from the area, and some past conflict, scuffles with one accused police officer and rivalry between two communities. As such Bakarwals are nomadic Muslim tribe who stay in the area during winters (temporary home) and move on to hills on the onset of summer negotiating one hill after another setting temporary camps, wherever possible, along with their livestock. Victim's father, a simple and god-fearing man, is on record to have told media persons that there was no conflict or ill-will with local Dogras before this unfortunate incident.

The charge-sheet did not reveal identity (name and photo) of the victim, but the media flashed name, religion, photo and other details of the victim in the utter disregard and violation of the Indian laws, and moral and ethical norms of the society initiating debate on communal lines. The social media also played spoilar by mass circulation of provocative messages and disinformation along with the identity of victim escalating communal hate and outrage. This reminds me of the 'Nirbhya Case' gangrape in December 2012 in a small locality of South Delhi wherein a juvenile named 'Mohammad Afroz' was reported to have resorted to the most violent and barberic ways in committing the rape and murder of the 23 years old physiotherapy intern. The case generated a widespread national and international coverage with outrage but the real identity of the victim and criminals including this juvenile was never revealed. Even now, the majority Indians are not aware of her real identity and remember her only by the name 'Nirbhya' (Fearless). This is sad and unfortunate that the irresponsible media has so selective approach in reporting; they certainly win in creating sensation and TRP but the act escalates further tension and rift in the already troubled society.

The issue of two BJP leaders has been widely debated by the media, opposition politicians and interested groups. However, the fact that a local Gujar activist & leader, some legislatures from the ruling PDP & opposition, separatist Hurriyat leaders as also some activists with JNU link have been involved and some of them actually visited the area, though this fact has not been highlighted in the media with the same zeal and flavour. These interventions have led to the communalisation of the whole episode, nationally and internationally. Such attempts of polarising communities on religious and communal lines are quite unfortunate and unfair not only to the victim and her family but also for the national harmony, besides causing obstacles in serving justice based on facts and truth.


In the instant case, the initial narrative of the heinous crime in the charge-sheet appears quite plausible and credible as long as the derelict juvenile accused, under the temptation or fit of own lust and vulnerability of the little girl, appears to commit abduction, detention in the cattle-shed and the subsequent attempted rape before killing her out of the fear of Bakarwals knowing it and, in turn, punishing him with grave consequences (as narrated in the charge-sheet). However, as soon as the plot thickens with the deeply hatched conspiracy theory of dislodging the nomad community, Devisthan as the venue of crime, past rivalry between the Hindu and Muslim communities and culmination of the same in a heinous crime by people of one community, the entire case becomes very complex with incredibility of an exceptional order.

The matter is now already sub-judice, with the charge-sheet already filed in the Kathua court and trial commenced. Another petition of the victim’s family is also under consideration in the Apex Court for the transfer of the case outside Jammu Division to ensure a free and fair trial. As the charge-sheet is mainly based on the confessions of the accused persons in police custody, as anticipated, all of them have denied charges in the very first hearing and requested for their Narco Analysis Test. In the given circumstances, the request appears genuine and may be given due consideration during the trial so that the complete and coclusive truth emerges and culprits meet their due nemesis which will be the true tribute to the deported little innocent soul and some solace to her family.

To ensure a guaranteed social order in a democratic set up, the police and court are two crucial institutions. It is unfortunate that the image of the police has become such that the ordinary citizen wishes to avoid it at all cost, and once the case goes to a court, it drags and drags on for years together only further multiplying miseries. There is a peculiar situation in Kathua murder case where one side says it doesn’t trust the CBI while the another side has no faith in the State Crime Branch. Similarly, one side has no problem if the trial is held in Jammu but the other side wants it to go outside the state. Clearly, the people have neither unclenching faith in police nor judiciary. Perhaps the case has become more complex after media, politicians and certain interested groups have succeeded in giving it a communal colour.

It is also true that the police and judiciary have internal issues seeking redressal and resolve; they have issues of manpower, they have issues of professional expertise else why should a tainted officer (even though exonerated recently) from Valley be part of such a sensitive case, and they have issues of the political interferences. There are reports when the tragedy struck on the Bakarwals, initially neither police nor judiciary was of any help to them when they were running from pillar to post for help and intervention. But how far the family of the victim is responsible for these deficiencies? Why should they be a collateral damage of this degeneration of institutions? It is the bounden duty and responsibility of the law makers of country, the elected government and other statutory institutions to treat equally all citizens and deliver free and fair justice and security irrespective of their social status, caste, creed and religion.

There is yet another and one last issue. When the nation was sieged with the outrage and turmoil a few days ago about the gory incident, some elements and the civil society in Jammu raised the issue of Rohingyas and tried to conflat it with the girl's murder. There in indeed a genuine concern and even this author had raised concern in an earlier article as to how such refugees reached to far flung Jammu from the Indo-Bangla border and certain elements helped them to illegally settle there with the state government remaining passive and soft on the issue. It certainly raises concern if some sinister design is underway to alter the demography of the Jammu Division too after force-fully driving out pandits from Kashmir in an already troubled and communally divided state. As per the state home department's figures, there were about 5,700 Rohingya in Jammu in 2017 but the actual count is probably many more.

Notwithstanding above, it may not be fair to link it with the girl's murder without any concrete evidence. The J&K State Government administration has faith in the Crime Branch and the latter has almost finished the assigned task. Now the court will decide to what extent the accusations made in the charge-sheet are true and sustainable. Till the judiciary takes a call, it is high time now for everyone including the macabre media, politicians and other groups to keep their tempers cool at least in so far as the ongoing debates on communal lines is concerned; rather it would be great if they firmly quieten down to give a much needed rest to their fertile brains.


More by :  Dr. Jaipal Singh

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