The rape of an eight-year-old girl in Kathua’s Rasana village, which sparked outrage across the country, is a “minor issue” and giving the case “too much importance” is “not the right thing” to do, according to J&K’s new Deputy Chief Minister and BJP leader Kavinder Gupta. Speaking to reporters after his swearing-in Monday, Gupta said, “Yeh ek choti si baat hai Rasana. Is prakar ki ghatna dobara kabhi na ho, iss par humein vichar karna hai. Uss bacchi ko nyay mile, aise bahut se challenges sarkar ke samne hain. Mujhe lagta hai ki Rasana case ko hum itna bhav deke hum thik nahin kar rahe hain (Rasana is a small issue. We should think about ensuring that such incidents do not recur. Ensuring that the girl gets justice is among the challenges before the government. I feel that by giving so much importance to Rasana, we are not doing the right thing).”
Gupta was the J&K Speaker before swapping posts with Nirmal Singh in a reshuffle directed by the party. Singh had backed Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti’s decision to stick to a probe by the Crime Branch in the Kathua case, though many BJP leaders had backed the demand for a CBI inquiry.
On Monday, among the eight legislators inducted to the Council were BJP state president Sat Sharma and Kathua MLA Rajiv Jasrotia. In February, Sharma had sent two BJP ministers at the time, Chander Parkash Ganga and Lal Singh, to address a rally of protesters who had gathered under the Hindu Ektya Manch, a new outfit, to back the accused in the rape case and demand a CBI probe. The two later resigned after the visit sparked controversy. Jasrotia was also present at the gathering.
Reacting to the new appointments, former chief minister and National Conference leader Omar Abdullah posted on Twitter: “2 BJP ministers removed in J&K for attending a pro-rapist rally & a MLA who is reported to have attended the same rally is promoted as a minister. Why are the BJP/ @MehboobaMufti confused about where they stand on the #Kathua rape?’’
BJP national general secretary Ram Madhav, who attended the swearing-in ceremony, said both ministers had resigned on their own “on high moral grounds” after the “wrong impression” was created about their presence at the rally.
Gupta, who replaced Singh, is a first-time MLA from Gandhi Nagar but an old BJP and RSS hand. He has served as Jammu mayor for three terms, between 2005 and 2010.
Sat Sharma and Jasrotia are first-time MLAs from Jammu West and Kathua, respectively.
With the latest reshuffle, the PDP and BJP have filled the quota of 25 members in the Council of Ministers. The PDP has 12 Cabinet ministers and two ministers of state. The BJP has nine Cabinet ministers and two ministers of state.
Sunil Sharma, who was earlier Minister of State for Transport, was elevated to Cabinet rank. Law and Justice Minister Abdul Haq Khan, Health and Medical Education Minister Bali Bhagat and Minister of State for Education Priya Sethi were dropped.