Ratcheting up their campaign in support of the accused in the Kathua case, the BJP’s J&K unit Friday uploaded a video on its official website of an advocate questioning the Crime Branch’s investigation and arrests in the rape and murder of an eight-year-old Bakarwal girl. The move comes less than a month after the party got two of its state ministers to step down for attending a rally in support of the accused in the case. It also comes three days before the Supreme Court hears the matter Monday.
The latest BJP move is set to strain its alliance with the PDP further, especially because Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti and her party have strongly backed the J&K police investigation and questioned any support for the accused.
After uploading the video labelled “A big expose on Kathua facts” and featuring advocate Monika Arora in the evening, the party’s IT cell also issued appeals on WhatsApp groups to share the clip on social networking sites.
Arora was part of an “independent” five-member team that recently visited Jammu on “a fact-finding mission” into the rape and murder in Rasana village. Its other members included Meera Khadkkar, retired district judge, Nagpur; Sarjana Sharma, Kashmir journalist; Sonali Chitalkar, assistant professor, Department of Political Science, Miranda House, Delhi University; and, Monicca Agarwaal, a social activist.
The team based the report on the testimonies of families of the accused, their lawyer Ankur Sharma and the Jammu Bar Association whose associates, the Kathua Bar Association, had last month allegedly tried to prevent J&K police from filing its charge sheet in court.
The group didn’t meet the family of the victim or the Muslim Bakarwal community and haven’t mentioned them in their report. The group has included photos of their meeting with Mufti and J&K Minister Zulfikar Choudhary but didn’t include their views in the report.
BJP’s J&K spokesperson Sunil Sethi said the fact-finding committee has submitted its report to Minister of State in the PMO Dr Jitendra Singh Thursday. “Because the report has been given to the government, we uploaded it on our website. However, it does not mean that we are accepting the report,’’ Sethi said.
Dr Jitendra Singh, who posted a photograph on Facebook of him receiving the report in New Delhi, said the team had gone to Jammu on its own. “The central government had nothing to do with it,” Singh told The Indian Express.
The team’s report states that “the demand for a CBI inquiry into the Kathua case is a legitimate demand. Not only must justice be done, it must also be seen to be done’’.
Pointing out that Gujjar-Bakarwals are a “nationalist community”, the report states that the “villagers of Rasana are extremely nationalist and most of them are ex-servicemen or serving in the forces’’.
“…on the chautha of the deceased, hundreds of outsiders including people from Kashmir joined the protests, raised pro-Pakistan slogans and hijacked the movement,’’ the report claims.
It questions the J&K Crime branch team, saying it “consists of two ethnic Kashmiris (Kashmiri Muslims) apart from SSP (Ramesh Jhalla)” and “in a sensitive case like this one, and in a state like J&K this matters”.
The report questions the charge of gangrape by three people, saying that in another similar case “the private parts were severe with intense bleeding” whereas the Kathua victim has “only abrasions”. The report claims that the devsthan, where the Crime Branch charge sheet states the victim was drugged and raped, is not a temple or a “devisthan”. The report also questions why the charge sheet was drafted in English and not Urdu.
The report has also raised several questions over the Crime Branch investigations, asking why the body was dumped barely 100m from the house of the main accused, and why the devsthan was not sealed.
Last month, following widespread criticism, BJP ministers Chander Parkash Ganga and Choudhary Lal Singh had to resign from the Cabinet for attending the rally organised by the Hindu Ekta Manch in support of the accused. However, last Monday, the party replaced its Deputy Chief Minister Nirmal Singh, who had supported the Crime Branch probe, with Kavinder Gupta who went to describe the case as a “minor issue”.