Two Bharatiya Janata Party ministers on Thursday attended a rally organised by the Hindu Ekta Manch, an outfit that has been protesting against the arrest of a man accused of raping and killing an eight-year-old girl in Jammu and Kashmir’s Kathua district in January. The party’s MLAs from Kathua and Hiranagar constituencies, Rajeev Jasrotia and Kuldip Raj, were also present at the rally, reported The Indian Express.

Minister for Forest Chowdhary Lal Singh and Minister for Commerce and Industries Chander Prakash Ganga said they would ask Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti to transfer the case to the Central Bureau of Investigation.

The case is currently being handled by the Crime Branch of the Jammu and Kashmir Police. Three people, including Special Police officers Deepak Khajuria and Surinder Kumar, have been arrested till now. The Hindu Ekta Manch has been demanding the release of Khajuria.

Singh and Ganga openly extended their support to the Manch, and said they will oppose the “jungle raj”. “We too want the real accused [to] be punished but we will not allow people to be picked up randomly,” Ganga said, according to News18. “What kind of investigations are they conducting?”

Earlier, the Bharatiya Janata Party had demanded “exemplary punishment” for Khajuria. The saffron party had also distanced itself from the Hindu Ekta Manch. “This is a heinous crime...we too want culprits [to] be given exemplary punishment,” Bharatiya Janata Party General Secretary (Organisation) Ashok Koul said.

Terming the Hindu Ekta Manch’s protests as their own decision, Koul had said, “BJP is not supporting them. Our stand is clear that [the] accused should be punished and law should take its own course.”

The incident

Unidentified people allegedly raped, tortured and killed an eight-year-old girl belonging to a nomadic tribe in Kathua district in Jammu and Kashmir on January 10. The child’s body was found on January 17.

Later, locals blocked the Jammu-Pathankot highway demanding justice for the child. Subsequently, the police formed a Special Investigation Team to investigate the incident.