The lawyer defending the main accused in the Kathua Bakerwal child’s rape and murder calls Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti a “jihadi chief minister,” accuses her of spearheading “an Islamo-fascist communal agenda for demographic change in Jammu’s Hindu-dominated areas” and called for, in a speech last month, social and economic boycott of the Gujjars and Bakerwals.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Ankur Sharma said: “Mehbooba Mufti is a jihadi…She gives legal immunity to cow slaughter and bovine smuggling. She refers to them (Gujjars and Bakerwals) as tribals, who are Muslims, and says Section 188 RPC (‘disobedience to order’) will not be invoked against them…She is spearheading an Islamo-fascist communal agenda wherein demographic change is a reality, where people of one religion are occupying land in Jammu province, which is a Hindu-dominated area.”
Sharma represents Sanji Ram, named by the Crime Branch as the mastermind of the rape and murder of the eight-year-old girl with an aim to “dislodge” the nomadic Bakerwal community from the area; as well as Sanji Ram’s son Vishal Jangotra; and police official Deepak Khajuria.
Claiming that he has been “receiving calls from Hindu Mahasabha president and Hindu organisations in Maharashtra”, Sharma, 31, said he was associated with the Hindu Ekta Manch that has been set up to support the accused in the rape and murder case as “I support their demand for a CBI inquiry”.
Calling the Manch a “peaceful and non-violent organisation”, he said it had been formed “when people received an Islamic attack”, because “Hurriyat-backed (Bakerwal) activists started to give names of one particular community”. “There is Islamic about Mehbooba Mufti, there is Islamic about the identity of the victim that has been revealed. There is nothing Hindu about the Hindu Ekta Manch,” he said.
Continuing his attack on Mufti, he questioned a meeting held in February where the CM asked officials that tribals living on forest land not be “dislocated” till the government forms a tribal policy, and that eviction be carried out only with permission of the Tribal Affairs Department. “The order came as a tool for those people to use,” he said. “Everybody knows that state land, forest land have been encroached upon only by this community… They are coming from outside and capturing hundreds and hundreds of kanals of land.”
Sharma accused the tribal communities of “quoting higher prices for purchasing land”, backed by “pan-Islamic financial cartels”. “People who come from outside who are Muslim are ready to pay more than the market price, double the market price, 1.5 times the market price. There are NGOs who are in league with these pan-Islamic financial cartels headed by the OIC (Organisation of Islamic Countries), whose idea is to spread Islam in the entire world. They pay a subsidy of 40 per cent for purchasing land in Hindu-dominated areas. Earlier it was 25 per cent,” he said.
While Gujjars and Bakerwals are State subjects, “they cannot be conspiring against us”, Sharma said. “They can live in peace and harmony but we will not allow demographic change to happen… They are innocent people, they are poor people, but they are being slowly poisoned against the Hindus of Jammu.”
Sharma also accused the BJP of having “abandoned their political constituency” and said “geopolitics” was the reason for it.
A speech of Sharma at a Hindu Ekta Manch rally in March — called to support the accused — has surfaced where he is heard asking for a boycott of Gujjars and Bakerwals. “We shall take a pledge here and it shall be the agenda of the (Hindu Ekta) Manch also to ensure that we will not sell our land to outsiders,” Sharma can be heard saying in Dogri. “They are working under a plan. So you need to think, and the first thing you shall decide is not to sell your land to them. Secondly, you shall stop all those things which strengthen their community here and improve their financial condition, whether it is trade with them, or purchasing milk from them or selling them fodder. You have to stop all these things as there are conspiracies on against you.”
Sharma admitted having made the speech. In that speech, Sharma also said that state government officials, from SSP to deputy commissioner, “are on the other side”.