The father of the eight-year-old girl who was raped and murdered in Jammu and Kashmir’s Kathua district in January last year said his family expected the court to award death penalty to all six convicts.

A Pathankot court on Monday convicted six of the seven accused in the gangrape and murder of the child. While three of the convicts were sentenced to life imprisonment, three others were given a five-year jail term each for destroying evidence. The court acquitted Vishal Jangotra, son of convict Sanji Ram, giving him the “benefit of doubt”.

Mohammad Akhtar, father of the girl, welcomed the conviction. “We were expecting that they [culprits] will be hanged for the heinous crime which they have committed with my daughter,” Akhtar told PTI.

Akhtar also said the family was surprised over the acquittal of one of the main accused. “I have been hearing all along that he is one of the main culprits, then why was he released?” he asked. Akhtar added that since the case was on the fast-track trial, they were told they will get justice within 90 days. “We welcome the judgement but are not unable to come to terms with one of the accused being set free.”

The child belonged to the nomadic Muslim Bakkarwal community. The family is currently on a journey in search of greener pastures in Kashmir.

The girl’s adopted father – the brother of the child’s biological mother – said life imprisonment to the accused was not enough and exemplary punishment should be given to them. “The family wanted death penalty for heartless killers,” he told Rising Kashmir. “They killed humanity and should not have been spared.”

“I want justice for my girl and that justice will be delivered when all the accused are hanged,” the girl’s mother told The Indian Express.

The case

The case had led to major outrage across the country last year. A number of groups were seen supporting the accused, some of whom were police officers.

The chargesheet filed by the Jammu and Kashmir Police’s Crime Branch on April 9 last year said the girl had been held captive in a “devasthan”, or temple, in the village, drugged, raped repeatedly, strangled to death and then bludgeoned. She was allegedly abducted on January 10 and killed four days later. Her body was found near Kathua on January 17.

Lawyers in Kathua had prevented crime branch officials from filing the chargesheet.

Later, the girl’s family petitioned the Supreme Court for the case to be transferred outside Jammu and Kashmir, to which the court agreed. The day-to-day in-camera trial began in the first week of June 2018 at the district and sessions court in Pathankot city of Punjab.