Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti on Thursday turned down a demand by the BJP ministers in her cabinet to recommend a CBI inquiry into the alleged rape and murder of an eight-year-old Bakerwal girl in Kathua district.
All BJP ministers, except Deputy CM Nirmal Singh, called on the Chief Minister in the civil secretariat around noon and sought shifting of the case to CBI, as is being demanded by people agitating in Kathua’s Hiranagar sub division. The ministers said a CBI probe will convince the agitators of the fairness of the probe.
The Chief Minister, sources said, categorically rejected the demand for handing over the investigation to CBI, saying that this would unnecessarily delay justice to the victim and her family.
Later, Minister for Health and Medical Education Bali Bhagat said Mehbooba told them that the Crime Branch’s probe was nearing completion and it was set to present a challan against accused in court in one or two days.
Meanwhile, following the Crime Branch charge that local police destroyed evidence in the rape and murder case, National Conference on Thursday said the state government is “preparing an excuse to hand over” the case to CBI.
“It has become clear beyond an iota of doubt that Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti, in an apparent attempt to shield the accused, is preparing an excuse to hand over the brutal and barbaric Kathua rape and murder case to the CBI as per the demand of her party’s alliance partner,” National Conference leaders said in a statement.
Crime branch tells DGP local police botched evidence, constable arrested
A police constable has been arrested and a sub-inspector detained for questioning after the Crime Branch of Jammu and Kashmir Police informed Director General of Police (DGP) S P Vaid that local police had tried to destroy evidence in wake of the alleged rape and murder of an eight-year-old girl in Kathua district that has triggered a chain of protests in the Valley since January. The constable has been identified as Tilak Raj, while the Sub Inspector is Anand Dutta.
In a letter to DGP Vaid, the Crime Branch revealed that the local police washed the blood- and mud-soaked clothes of the girl before sending them to the forensic laboratory. The police also did not preserve the crime scene or conduct any search in the village after the girl’s parents filed a missing complaint, it said.
DGP Vaid confirmed the development and told The Indian Express that the matter had been reported to him informally.
The minor girl from the Bakerwal community had disappeared from near her house in Rasana on January 10. Her body was found after a week, following which the police had arrested a youth. The state government ordered a magisterial probe and then handed over the investigation to the Crime Branch, amid demand for a CBI probe.
After taking over probe, the Crime Branch arrested two Special Police Officers, Deepak Khajuria and Surinder Kumar, both posted at Hiranagar police station.
The arrests drew protests from Hindu villagers who accused the Crime Branch of working under pressure from Bakerwals. Demanding a CBI probe into the matter, they staged demonstrations under the aegis of Hindu Ekta Manch led by BJP state secretary Vijay Kumar Sharma. The Bakerwal leaders, on the other hand, attributed the alleged abduction and murder of the girl to a conspiracy to drive out the nomadic community from the area, where they have been coming every winter since decades.
Meanwhile, a group of women from the state have expressed anguish over the “unjustifiable delay” in investigation. “We are equally concerned over excessive politicisation and communalisation of an incident which is clearly one of sexual exploitation, sexual brutality and murder,” they said in a written statement.