The investigation into the rape and murder of an eight- year-old Bakherwal girl in Kathua’s Rasana village, which brought the communal divide in Jammu out in the open, has found that it was part of a conspiracy to make Bakherwal nomads move out of the area in fear.
Government sources also told The Sunday Express that the person arrested first in the case was not a juvenile as earlier believed. They said a medical board set up by the Principal Government Medical College, Jammu, has concluded, after conducting physical, dental and radiological examinations, that the accused was over 19 years.
The Jammu and Kashmir Police Friday submitted a status report in the case to the Jammu and Kashmir High Court.
According to the status report, the juvenile’s relative, who is also a retired revenue official, and a resident of Rasana, was the “main conspirator”. Other than the juvenile, the J&K Crime Branch have arrested Special Police Officer Deepak Khajuria, Parvesh Kumar alias Mannu, and SPO Surinder Kumar. Head Constable Tilak Raj of Hira Nagar police station was also arrested on charges of destroying evidence.
The girl disappeared on January 10, when she was out grazing ponies. Her body was found on January 11 in a wooded part of Rasana village, and tests have established that she was raped, and was alive for at least three or four days after she went missing. During that time, government sources said, the accused kept her in a large prayer room in the village. Her body was found barely 200 metres from the prayer room.
It is learnt that investigations have shown the juvenile, his relative and SPO Khajuria conspired to abduct and kill the girl to get the Bakherwals to leave the village. Sources said the relative had all along been vocal against the Muslim Bakherwals staying in the forests on the outskirts of Rasana, whose 13 households are all Brahmin. Some 20 Bakherwals had bought land from local residents to build pucca houses around Rasana.
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The accused are said to have admitted that after her abduction, the girl was forcibly given sedatives and was raped after she fell unconscious. She was kept in the prayer room until January 14. The Crime Branch is also trying to establish where she was kept for two days until her body was recovered on January 17.
The gruesome incident had polarised the region and brought to light the communal divide in Jammu, particularly in Kathua. A group called Hindu Ekta Manch, set up when the Crime Branch took over the case and arrested Khajuria, has been demanding a CBI enquiry. The Manch, which has a cross-party membership, and is supported by local BJP leaders, including Forest Minister Lal Singh, alleged that the state police was carrying out arrests under political pressure.
Earlier, the Bakherwal and Gujar community of Jammu and Chenab regions had come out in strength to protest the police’s indifference to the girl’s father’s complaint at the Hira Nagar police station after the family’s search in Rasana and its neighbourhood for the girl proved futile.