After becoming a rallying cry of justice last year, the outrageous rape-and-murder case of eight-year-old Muslim nomad girl headed to its conclusion on June 10, 2019, when six of the seven accused were convicted by the Pathankot court.
by Saqib Bashir
Mother of eight-year-old Muslim nomad girl from Kathua was in south Kashmir’s highlands on the customary summer sojourn, when the news of the verdict came. The doleful mother said that she was expecting that her daughter’s tormentors would be sent to the gallows.
“What they did to her has forever doomed us,” she said, while sounding numb with recollection. “She was a chirpy bird of our family. They mauled her so bad that it’s breaking our heart whenever we think about it.”
Her accompanying relative said that the family always had a firm belief on the justice system. “We never took matters in our own hands after what they did to our daughter,” the young man who identified himself as the girl’s cousin said. “We respect this court decision.”
Far away from the Anantnag pastures, where the family was keeping the close tab on the news, the Pathankot Court on June 10 convicted the accused in the crime that sent shockwaves across globe last year.
Except Vishal, the juvenile son of the mastermind Sanji Ram, all six were convicted.
While three of them were convicted on the charges of rape and murder and given lifer, the other three were convicted on the charges of destroying evidence and handed over five-years of imprisonment.
The verdict spread smiles in the tribe of the nomad girl. “The justice has come after a long fought battle,” said the girl’s cousin. “It’s the victory for all those sane voices, who campaigned for the justice.”
Last year, in January, the girl went missing from her Rasana Kathua home and was soon found dead. Her body bore stark assault marks. It soon came to fore that the crime was committed on the instructions of a local retired revenue official Sanji Ram. Behind the crime, the sleuths reveal, was Ram’s motive to throw nomad Muslims out of their Kathua home.
“I am sure the girl must have found solace today, as her perpetrators finally met their end,” her cousin said.
But it was never easy given how the justice campaign had polarised the region. Even the two former state BJP ministers attended the pro-rapist rally at Kathua and batted for a CBI probe in the case.
In Jammu, another kin of the girl said that the justice will serve deterrent in such cases in future. “From the day one, we were demanding the fair trial in the case where humanity was put to shame. I am happy, justice has been served,” he said.
As per the JK Police’s Crime Branch report, which earlier faced opposition from the Kathua Bar Association, the minor was repeatedly drugged and raped inside a temple space, before hacked to death with stones.
The crime branch charge-sheet also includes medical opinion about the effect of sedatives on the victim as well as the location of Vishal, son of Sanji Ram. Vishal, however, claimed that he never visited Kathua to commit the crime.
Ram, along with his son and his juvenile nephew, two special police officers Deepak Khajuria alias ‘Dipu’ and Surender Verma and friend Parvesh Kumar alias Mannu were arrested by the Crime Branch. All of them were named in the first charge-sheet.
Head constable Tilak Raj and sub-inspector Anand Dutta, who allegedly took Rs 4 lakh from Sanji Ram and destroyed crucial evidence were also been arrested and dismissed from service.
The investigation revealed that Kumar was not only in constant touch with co-accused Khajuria but also in contact with Raj, who is believed to have played a role in striking a deal between Ram and the police for destruction of evidence.
Kumar’s detailed call analysis was also submitted in the charge-sheet to show he shared a common location with other accused on crucial dates of crime and immediately thereafter.
The duration of the calls made and their frequency increased after the rape and murder of the eight-year-old girl, leading to the “irresistible conclusion of knee deep involvement of accused Surinder Kumar with other accused…”, the charge-sheet stated.
An analysis of the two bank accounts of Ram, custodian of the temple where the child was allegedly confined, was also conducted, revealing that he had made cash withdrawals.
The Crime Branch said in its charge-sheet that the withdrawals were made to bribe the police officers for destruction of evidence.
Earlier, the Crime Branch informed the Supreme Court that it would be submitting a supplementary charge-sheet in the case. The apex court had given them eight weeks to file it.
“I know the parents of the girl must be crying their hearts out at the moment over their long-fought battle with the help of civil society,” the girl’s cousin said. “The tears might finally bring some relief to them and justice to the poor soul snuffed out in sheer brutality.”
For such a heart-warming verdict, the due credit is being given to the Crime Branch sleuths who cracked the case despite facing the political and fringe heat.