NEW DELHI: Eight men accused in the gang-rape and murder case of an eight-year-old Kashmiri girl who were protected by ministers and lawyers loyal to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have seized the attention of millions as rage continued to course across India on Friday at the horror of what the little girl suffered.

Politics over rape: Hindu extremists demand release of 8-year-old Muslim girl's rapists in held-Kashmir

Mr Modi, in a message, called it a shame for any civilised society after opposition groups, including a large candlelight vigil by Congress President Rahul, demanded a statement from him.

They asked Mr Modi to speak on the Kashmiri outrage and the alleged rape of another minor girl in Uttar Pradesh by a BJP MLA.

The victim’s father died in police custody after he was beaten and tortured by relatives of the MLA and police. The Supreme Court slammed the state administration for its apparent connivance in BJP-ruled Uttar Pradesh.

The Supreme Court also ordered Hindu nationalist lawyers in Kashmir not to block the legal process. The crime was planned by a former revenue officer who wanted to drive the girl’s nomadic Muslim community of Bakerwals out of the Rassana area of Kathua, according to an investigation by NDTV.

It said that on Jan 10, the little girl in a purple dress, was grazing her horses near her one-room home when one of the accused, a 19-year-old, called her into the forest pretending to help look for a missing horse. The horse returned without her.

The police say the man dragged her to a small village temple and drugged her. For three days, the man and two others gang-raped her, keeping her sedated and without food. Before she was strangled and hit twice with a heavy rock for good measure, one of the men stopped the killer to rape her one last time, NDTV said.

The girl’s body was found in the forests on January 17.

Investigations led the police to the 19-year-old school dropout who had often seen the girl grazing horses, and to his uncle Sanji Ram, who was in charge of the temple where police found forensic evidence.

Sanji Ram, one of the accused persons, was a former government official who allegedly planned the depraved crime and even kept a huge amount of money for bribes, NDTV said. He was arrested after the teen’s confession, forensic tests and information based on the interrogation of various suspects.

The man who allegedly wanted to rape the girl one more time before her murder was Special Police Officer Deepak Khajuria, according to the police charge sheet.

He was named in the teen’s statement to the police. Call data records also established his presence at the place where she had been kept locked in for days.

Another accused person was the special police officer, Surinder Kumar. Witnesses saw him at the crime scene. Call data records also proved his presence.

The teen named his friend Parvesh Kumar as one of the men who repeatedly raped the child.

Sanji Ram’s son Vishal Jangotra was arrested on the basis of forensic tests. Vishal, studying in Meerut, travelled to Kathua after a phone-call from the teen who said he could “satisfy his lust”, the police charge sheet says.

Two other accused persons were policemen who were aware of the horrific crime and tried their best to cover it up for a huge bribe.

The charge sheet said sub-inspector Anand Dutta and head constable Tilak Raj didn’t collect vital evidence and washed the girl’s dress to help the criminals.

Published in Dawn, April 14th, 2018


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