The Supreme Court’s decision to transfer the trial in the Kathua rape and murder case from the Kathua district court to Pathankot in neighbouring Punjab comes against the backdrop of a series of unprecedented events — lawyers obstructing the filing of the charge-sheet, and making openly communal slurs against the police investigation amid the constant clamour for a CBI probe to find the “real culprits”. The conduct of the Hindu Ekta Manch, which opposed the J&K Crime Branch investigation from Day 1, and last week attacked a BJP minister’s car with stones, had left no room for doubt that holding the trial in Kathua would be a fraught affair. The trial will now be held on a daily basis, in camera, in Pathankot. The J&K government opposed the transfer out of Kathua, but it should be satisfied that it has been allowed to appoint a public prosecutor for the case. It won a bigger battle when the Supreme Court declined to hear a petition for transferring the case to the CBI. Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti had told this newspaper that “if you don’t trust J&K Police, there is no one left to be trusted in the state”. She rightly pointed out that it was “shameful and dangerous” to question the officers of the Crime Branch team based on their religion or the region to which they belong.
Giving in to the demand for a CBI investigation of the Kathua case would have meant accepting the argument that the officers on the case were influenced by their religion in their investigation. It would have greatly undermined the institution. The Supreme Court’s decision implicitly rejects that demand and is certain to be a morale booster for a force that has had to face communal taints and pressures as it carried out this investigation, even as it continues to go all out against militancy in the Valley.
The rank communalism of pro-Hindutva elements and outfits over the Kathua rape has worsened the polarisation within Jammu between Hindu and Muslim, and between Jammu and Kashmir, where the daily killing of militants has neither prevented more youth from picking up the gun, nor discouraged others from expressing support for militancy. For those who still believe that the solution lies in increasing employment opportunities for the youth, Sunday’s encounter in Shopian is telling — among the five militants killed was a university professor teaching sociology at Kashmir University. Five civilians were also killed at the encounter site. There is an urgent need to break this cycle of violence. The government should use the opportunity presented by the coming month of Ramzan to make another attempt to reach out in the Valley.