The Bharatiya Janata Party said that it did not support the bandh called by the Jammu High Court Bar Association in Jammu on Wednesday, Greater Kashmir reported. The bar association had called for the strike after the police registered an FIR against lawyers who tried to prevent them from filing a chargesheet in the Kathua rape and murder case. The association has claimed the support of several social and religious organisations.

“We are not supporting the bandh call,” BJP state general secretary (organisations) Ashok Kaul said. “The things in Jammu are being complicated by the Congress. There is no change in our stand and those involved should be punished.” However, Kaul also said that the lawyers’ efforts to stop the police from filing a chargesheet was a “small thing” that “does not need importance.”

An eight-year-old girl from the nomadic Gujjar-Bakarwal community in Jammu was abducted in January, held captive, raped repeatedly and then strangled to death. Her body was found in the forests near Patta Rasana in Kathua on January 17, a week after she went missing.

Kaul criticised the BJP’s coalition partner, the People’s Democratic Party, for the investigation into the rape and murder. “First it was the Kathua district police solely involved in the investigation. Later the judiciary and a special investigation team were involved. Finally the case was handed over to the crime branch,” he said.

The BJP leader also denied that two ministers in the Mehbooba Mufti government had in March joined a rally organised by the Hindu Ekta Manch protesting against the arrest of the murder suspect. “Both the ministers had visited the area to calm the atmosphere and to ensure that harmony between the two communities prevails despite the charged atmosphere,” Kaul claimed.

Strike call evokes lukewarm response

The bar association’s call for a bandh evoked a lukewarm response in Jammu on Wednesday, Greater Kashmir reported. Other bar associations in the region and industry chambers stayed away from the strike.

Only a few shops and educational institutions remained shut. Public transport operated normally as transporters did not support the bandh.

Jammu Chamber of Commerce and Industry President Rajesh Gupta said the Kathua case and the matter of Rohingya refugees in Jammu and Kashmir was sub-judice, and therefore a street agitation was inappropriate.