Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti on Friday said she was “horrified” by the protests demanding the release of the accused in the Kathua rape and murder case. The state police have arrested Special Police Officer Deepak Khajuria for allegedly kidnapping, raping and killing an eight-year-old girl in Kathua district in January.

An organisation called the Hindu Ekta Manch took out a rally in Kathua with the Indian tricolour, demanding the release of Khajuria. They warned of an agitation if the police did not let the accused go, NDTV reported.

“Khajuria should be released and those whom the Crime Branch has called for questioning should not be harassed,” unidentified members of the group said on Thursday, according to Rising Kashmir. “It will disturb the situation. We are against the murder of the minor girl but we don’t want our men to be framed.”

“I am appalled by the marches and protests in defence of the recently apprehended rapist in Kathua,” Mufti said on Twitter on Friday. “Also horrified by their use of our national flag in these demonstrations.” She added that the use of the tricolour for such a march was “nothing short of desecration”.