Bharatiya Janata Party MLA Chaudhary Lal Singh, who resigned from the Jammu and Kashmir Cabinet last week, led a candle march on Thursday demanding an inquiry by the Central Bureau of Investigation into the rape and murder of an eight-year-old girl in Kathua.

The former forest minister claimed the state government had buckled under the pressure of a separatist lobby that opposed the CBI inquiry, the Greater Kashmir reported. “What is the government afraid of?” he said. “The Jammu region and the Dogras have been projected as rapists by the media which is very shameful for us. We are not such people. We have been defamed.”

Lal Singh was one of two ministers – the other being Chander Prakash Ganga – who had resigned on April 13 amid outrage over their participation in a demonstration in support of an accused in the case.

“We will not rest till a CBI inquiry is ordered,” he said, while questioning why Kashmiri officers were appointed to investigate the crime. “Attempts are being made to spread Kashmir infection in Jammu but we will not allow anyone to disturb communal harmony here,” he said.

Meanwhile, several college and higher secondary school students protested across the Valley on Thursday against the Kathua rape and murder, according to Rising Kashmir. They clashed with policemen in some areas such as Bandipora town.

Death penalty for rapists of minors

Jammu and Kashmir Law Minister Abdul Haq Khan said on Thursday that the government has begun the process to bring in a law to punish those who rape minors with the death penalty. Khan said the new law would act as a deterrent in such crimes. He added that his department has begun studying legislation in other states – Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Haryana – that have brought in such laws recently.

Meanwhile, Manipur Chief Minister N Biren Singh said on Thursday that his government would soon introduce in the Assembly a bill with a provision for the death penalty for rapists, according to The Imphal Free Press.