Jammu and Kashmir

Kathua rape, murder case was a plot to dislodge Muslim Bakarwal community: J&K Police chargesheet

Crime Branch alleges that an eight-year-old girl was drugged, raped, starved and murdered in an attempt to drive the nomadic community out of Rasana village.

Fighting back protests by Jammu lawyers claiming that the investigation had been unfair, the Crime Branch of the Jammu and Kashmir Police on Monday filed its chargesheet in the Kathua rape and murder case. Eight people, including one juvenile, are named as the accused.

Scroll.in was able to gain access to a copy of the chargesheet, which gives details of how an eight-year-old girl from the nomadic Gujjar-Bakarwal community in Jammu was abducted in January, held captive in a local temple, drugged, raped repeatedly and then strangled. Her body was found in the forests near Rasana on January 17, a week after she went missing. It was, the chargesheet alleges, a plot to “dislodge the Bakarwal community in Rasana”, the village in Kathua district where the girl lived.

The nomadic Gujjar-Bakarwal community, who are mostly Muslim in these parts of Jammu, are a small minority in Kathua district. In Rasana village, which lies in the Hiranagar area of the district, the two communities regularly get into spats over land, damage to crops by the livestock of the Muslim herders and allegations of cow slaughter levelled by Hindu residents. The bad blood had already resulted in several first information reports in police stations in the area.

The eight-year-old child became a “soft target” in these tensions between the two communities, the chargesheet stated.

The accused

The main accused in the case is 60-year-old Sanji Ram, a retired government employee from Rasana. Four others are police officials: two are special police officers, Deepak Khajuria and Surinder Kumar, charged with direct involvement in the crime, while the two others include sub inspector Anand Datta, and head constable Tilak Raj, accused of helping to cover up the crime.

At least two among the accused are believed to have held personal grudges against the Bakarwal community, the chargesheet says. One of them is Khajuria, who had got into a “few scuffles” with the Bakarwals.

The minor, who had been expelled from school for “unruly behavior” with female students, was “provoked and induced” by Ram, the chargesheet said. He could “take revenge on the Bakarwals who had earlier beaten him” while Khajuria could ensure he passed his board examinations by helping him cheat. Both Khajuria and Raj were opposed to the idea of the Bakarwals settling in the area and had already talked to Ram to “chalk out a strategy for dislodging” the community, the chargesheet says.

Also named are Ram’s son Vishal Jangotra, Ram’s juvenille nephew, and Parvesh Kumar, a friend of Ram’s nephew. All of them are residents of Rasana.

Seven days

During the week that the girl had been missing, the Bakarwal community alleges, the police had done little to find her. According to the chargesheet, she had been drugged and raped multiple times by at least three of the conspirators before being killed. It tries to reconstruct events of the week that followed her disappearance.

The police pieced together its case from DNA evidence, by analysing call detail records of the accused and from the testimonies of 130 witnesses. “The CDRs [call detail records] obtained have prima facie established the individual and common locations of all the accused in and around the scene of crime on crucial dates of occurrence,” it stated.

On January 10, the juvenile allegedly lured the girl into the jungles, where Kumar was waiting. The juvenile then forcibly administered “manar” – a local drug – to the victim. “The victim fell unconscious and was raped by JCL [the juvenile in conflict with the law],” the chargesheet said. “Thereafter, Mannu [Kumar’s nickname] also attempted to rape her but could not do it.”

It then describes how she was taken to a “devisthan” or temple in the village. On January 7, Khajuria allegedly procured the drugs that were administered to the girl by both him and the juvenile over the next few days. During this time, the chargesheet says, the girl’s hands and feet were bound with the drawstrings of her salwar and she was kept under a stringed cot, covered with mats to conceal her.

On January 11, the girl’s parents went to the temple and asked Ram about their missing daughter. According to the chargesheet, Ram told them “she will be back as she might have gone to some relative’s house”. In the afternoon, Khajuria allegedly forced two tablets of Epitril 0.05mg – a drug containing Clonazepam, used for treating seizures – down the girl’s throat.

Even as the police searched for the missing child in the area, apparently aided by Khajuria, Ram’s son Jangotra on January 13 allegedly raped the girl inside the temple, in the presence of Kumar. After this, the juvenile also raped her, the chargesheet states. The juvenile then directed the two to leave the temple and administered three tablets of Epitril, it adds.

That evening, when the juvenile informed his uncle the girl had been raped, Ram allegedly told his accomplices that the time “was ripe to kill her”, the chargesheet states, so on January 14 she was taken from the temple to a nearby canal by the juvenile and Jangotra.

There, Khajuria and the juvenile raped her before attempting to kill her, says the chargesheet. It says Khajuria attempted to kill the girl by strangulating her but was unable to do so, following which the juvenile killed her “by pressing his knees against her back and strangulated the girl by applying force on both the ends of her chunni”. It added that the victim was hit twice on the head with a stone in order to make sure she was dead. The stone, it says, weighed one kilogramme.

Medical reports suggested that the girl had been kept without food. The cause of death is said to be asphyxia leading to cardiopulmonary arrest.

On January 15, the chargesheet continues, Ram told his son and the juvenile that a man named Kishore had refused to bring a vehicle that would help them dump the victim’s body in a canal in Hiranagar. Ram then directed them to dump the body in the jungle as devotees were expected the next day for “faanda”, a ritual of exorcism, which Ram was to perform himself.

On January 16, the juvenile, accompanied by Jangotra, lifted the girl’s body on his shoulders and left it in the jungle, says the chargesheet. Later that day, Jangotra left for Meerut, where he is a student, and the juvenile confessed his role in the crime to another friend. On January 17, the girl’s body was found.

The cover up

On January 19, the police arrested the juvenile, who led them to six other accused. Ram finally surrendered on March 20. Initially, the chargesheet says, Ram wanted the juvenille to confess to having committed the crime all by himself, promising that “he would get him cleared from the charges at the earliest”.

Meanwhile, local police were allegedly aware of the event, the chargesheet says. The chargesheet states that Datta and Raj had struck a deal with Ram before the crime took place. The two were promised Rs 5 lakh promised in exchange for help in covering up the crime, of which they had already been give Rs 4 lakh. The police is still investigating all the financial transactions surrounding the crime.

The investigation found that Datta instructed the juvenile to implicate a Hindu herder from the Gadee community. Instead, he confessed his crime before Kathua district’s senior superintendent of police.

Allegedly, Datta had warned the juvenile against blaming the others in the case. On January 19, Datta and his security guards took the juvenile to the cowshed where the child was initially believed to have been held captive, and to the spot where she was found dead. At these places, Datta allegedly “staged” photographs to implicate the juvenile holding the stone and prepared a “Disclosure Memo” stating that the stone was recovered on the juvenile’s disclosure. “This all was being done by the accused SI Dutta in order to attach an element of truthfulness to his concocted story and in the process to create false evidence so that other accused could be screened from the grave criminal charges,” the chargesheet stated.

It also alleged that Tilak and Raj had washed the girl’s clothes to destroy any DNA evidence before forwarding them to the forensic science laboratory for examination. The chargesheet accuses him of destroying “vital evidence”. It also noted that Dutta, as an investigation officer in the case, remained “very casual” and left “serious criminal lapses deliberately in order to give undue benefit or to expunge the accused involved in the case.”

Despite Dutta and Raj’s efforts, it said, “FSL [forensic science laboratory] Delhi, with updated technology, was able to confirm the presence of blood stains on the Frock-Shalwar of the victim which matched with the DNA profile of the victim. DNA profiling also established presence of victim’s blood on the vaginal smears”.

All the accused have been charged under various sections of the Ranbir Penal Code, the criminal code that is operative in Jammu and Kashmir. All eight have been booked under Section 201 (causing disappearance of evidence of offence), Section 343 (wrongful confinement), Section 376 (gang rape), Section 302 (murder), and 120-B (criminal conspiracy) and Section 363 (kidnapping).

Correction: This article initially identified Anand Datta as station house officer in Hiranagar when he was not. Datta was a sub inspector. The error is regretted

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