A Bharatiya Janata Party leader on Thursday claimed that there was a “Pakistani hand” behind the rape and murder of an eight-year-old girl in Jammu and Kashmir’s Kathua district, PTI reported.

“The act must have been committed by Pakistan’s agents to divide people by chanting Jai Shri Ram,” Madhya Pradesh BJP President Nandkumar Singh Chouhan said during a fast observed by party leaders on Thursday. There were reports that the rapists had shouted “Jai Shri Ram” after the incident.

Chouhan claimed that since there were very few Hindus in Kashmir, they could not shout slogans such as “Jai Shri Ram” after raping a girl. “Hindus are less than 1% in Kashmir,” Chouhan said. “They cannot even open their mouths, then how can they shout these slogans?”

Chouhan’s remarks came even as Jammu and Kashmir minister Tassaduq Mufti raised concerns about the alliance of his party, Peoples Democratic Party, with the BJP in the state. He said the two parties had become “partners in crime” and the communal politics over the Kathua rape has “pushed the state to a new low and brought shame to all of us”.

“If coalition politics is about living with a series of failures and ignominies, then I am sorry I don’t know how to hide my awkwardness and discomfort with it,” Mufti, the brother of Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti, told The Indian Express. It would be a “sin” to stay quiet in a situation when every day is a day of mourning and a child’s rape gets support in the name of religion, he said.

The Kathua incident has sparked anger because of the support the accused has received from Hindutva groups, who even sought to prevent a chargesheet being filed in the matter. The BJP and its ministers have steered clear of commenting on the crime even as two ministers from the party – Kathua MLA Rajeev Jasrotia and Hiranagar MLA Kuldip Raj – attended a rally organised by the Hindu Ekta Manch in protest against the arrest of one of the accused.

Police chief defends investigation

Jammu and Kashmir Director General of Police SP Vaid defended the investigation by the crime branch, and said he does not support the demand for an inquiry by the Central Bureau of Investigation. Vaid told NDTV that the crime branch had done a professional job.

“Two special police officers have been arrested,” he said. “So four of our own men who, for whatever reason, whether for bribe or whatever reason did something wrong...even they have not been spared. So that speaks of the fairness of the investigation of Jammu and Kashmir Police.”

He added those who were demanding a CBI inquiry did not trust the police, and it was surprising.

“I think only they can answer this why they don’t have faith in the crime branch of the J&K Police,” Vaid said. “Jammu and Kashmir Police, which is fighting almost war-like situation and which can sacrifice its men in Kashmir can do such a great job, is admired all over the country for its professional working and I am really surprised if somebody says they don’t have trust on them.”

Bar Association says its agitation is not communal

The Bar Association of Jammu on Thursday said its agitation to demand a CBI inquiry into the Kathua rape was wrongly being portrayed as “communal”, PTI reported. The association had called for a strike on Wednesday after the police registered an FIR against lawyers who tried to prevent them from filing a chargesheet in the case. The association has claimed the support of several social and religious organisations.

The association said it will extend its strike till April 17 to protest the growing illegal presence of Rohingya refugees and Bangladeshis in the state.