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Sunday, July 22, 2018

Kathua rape-murder case gets Hindu-Muslim twist, J&K police say let two Sikhs be prosecutors

The J&K Police, sources said, want the Crime Branch case to be represented by Bhupinder Singh and Harminder Singh. While Bhupinder Singh is Chief Prosecuting Officer in the J&K Police prosecution wing, Harminder Singh is Chief Prosecuting Officer, Samba.

Written by Muzamil Jaleel | New Delhi | Updated: April 12, 2018 7:27:22 am
Kathua rape-murder case: Tests confirm victim held in prayer hall, was sedated The storeroom where the victim was allegedly kept, in Kathua near Jammu. (Express Photo: Nirupama Subramanian)

With the rape and murder of an eight-year-old Bakherwal Muslim girl in Kathua sparking outrage and the case being given a communal twist by a Hindu outfit and Jammu-based politicians and lawyers rallying in support of the accused, police in J&K, hoping to check further polarisation, have sought the appointment of two Sikh police officers as special prosecuting officers in the case.

The J&K Police, sources said, want the Crime Branch case to be represented by Bhupinder Singh and Harminder Singh. While Bhupinder Singh is Chief Prosecuting Officer in the J&K Police prosecution wing, Harminder Singh is Chief Prosecuting Officer, Samba.

Director General of Police S P Vaid has already written to the Principal Secretary (Home) in this connection. “Yes, I have written to the Home department,’’ Vaid told The Indian Express. “For me, they are police officers whose profession, and not religious identity, is important. In fact, the people who were opposing the Crime Branch investigation into the case were also trying to raise accusations against our team. I gave them the same answer.”

Read | Kathua rape-murder case: Tests confirm victim held in prayer hall, was sedated

Sources said the police “want to have prosecuting officers from their own ranks” but from a “neutral faith” to avoid further communal division.

“So much communal politics has been played in Jammu over this case that the entire atmosphere is polluted. Those who are campaigning in favour of the accused have been questioning the Crime Branch probe only on communal grounds,’’ a police officer said.

Protesters in Jammu during a shutdown Wednesday. (AP Photo)

“The J&K Police is a nationalist force in Kashmir where it is at the forefront of counter-insurgency operations, but here (in Jammu), it is being considered anti-national because a few members of the Crime Branch investigation team happen to be Muslims. Ironically, the SSP monitoring the probe is a Kashmiri Pandit. We want to avoid unnecessary controversy. Our priority is to ensure that the eight-year-old gets justice,” the officer said.

Read | Kathua rape-murder: Chargesheet filed against seven amid protests by lawyers

J&K Law Minister Abdul Haq Khan told The Indian Express: “We will do everything to provide justice to this daughter. We will ensure that those who raped and murdered her are punished.’’ He said his ministry appoints prosecuting officers to represent cases. “We will want competent and experienced lawyers representing the prosecution. And of course, we will consider the recommendation of the J&K Police,’’ he said.

EXPLAINED | A chargesheet, forest land and a divide in Jammu

On Wednesday, The Indian Express reported details of the 18-page chargesheet filed by the Crime Branch against the eight accused in the rape and murder of the girl who went missing from near her house in Rasana in Kathua on January 10 — her body was found seven days later in the forests nearby.

Read | Kathua girl was raped, killed to force nomads out, finds probe

According to the chargesheet, the eight-year-old was gangraped thrice inside the Devasthan or prayer hall, after the mastermind had “performed rituals”. One of the rapists was called from Meerut to “satisfy his lust”. The girl was confined using sedatives, then strangled and hit on the head twice with a stone — “in order to make sure” she was dead. But not before another accused, a police personnel, asked the others to “wait because he wanted to rape” her one last time. And all this, to “dislodge” a group of Bakherwal Muslim nomads from Rasana.

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