The nation has still not come out of the shock created by the reports of the gang-rape and murder of an eight year old girl in Kathua. As per news reports and the charge-sheet filed before the Chief Judicial Magistrate, the infant girl was raped repeatedly by the accused and kept captive in a local temple in Kathua for seven days and was finally murdered when the girl stated that she will narrate the entire incident to her family members. This heinous crime shook the conscience of the entire society. However, the locals in Kathua feel that the investigation report has certain inconsistencies raising certain doubts over its reliability.
One major aspersion that is being cast by a leading Hindi newspaper, Dainik Jagran and the locals in the region is the plausibility of a girl being raped in the popular Devasthan (the temple as per media reports is only a small prayer-room going by the locals’ version). The Dainik Jagran news report states that there is a major discrepancy in the version given by the J & K Police and the turn of events narrated by the crime branch. The police version stated that the kid had been kept captive in a cowshed belonging to the accused; however, the crime branch as well as the media outlets have stated that the she was taken captive in the Devasthan. The locals who have been portrayed as heartless villains who support rape as a weapon as well as the rapists by media outlets are particularly disturbed about this fact. According to the news report, the locals have stated that they are shaken like everyone else due to this incident and that even they want the law to take its natural course. They agree that what happened to the little girl was horrible and cannot be forgiven. However, they feel that the investigation report filed by the crime branch lacks veracity. The news report points out that there is also a stark factual error in the media reports which casts even greater doubts on the narrative. According to it, the Devasthan in question does not have a basement attached to it. It is a small room with three doors. However, the mainstream media reported that the victim was kept prisoner in the basement. Going by the news report, the basement in which the victim was kept captive is non-existent. An Amar Ujala (a Hindi daily) report also states that contrary to the report in the charge-sheet, locals in Kathua say that the body of the victim was found on a busy road leading to accused Sanjhi Ram’s house from the temple. It also expresses bewilderment as to why a criminal would do that rather than getting rid of the body in the adjacent forest.
According to a Hindustan Times story, the local women are also appalled by the fault lines and the defects in the investigation report filed by the crime branch. The Devasthan which has been wrongly projected as a temple is a tiny 300 square feet room, with just some posters of Hindu deities and a ‘Devasthan’ for the local deity on one end. The room has three doors and according to the crime branch its keys were in the custody of the family of the accused of committing the crime. Beena Devi, a resident of the village in which the heinous crime is said to have been committed, stated that she refuses to believe that the victim was kept hidden in the small Devasthan. She goes on to state that she visited the temple every morning and evening with several kids playing around the site. Another resident of the village, Anjana Sharma stated that the accused would have been fools to take the girl prisoner in the Devasthan which is revered like Mata Vaishno Devi shrine among the locals. They also said that every Sunday a bhandara takes place in the temple and scores of villagers had gathered on 13th and 14th January to celebrate the significant festivals of Lohri and Makar Sankranti.
The version narrated by the residents of the village casts serious aspersions on the investigation report made by the crime branch. It is not reliable to believe that a girl could have been kept captive without getting noticed in a small 300 square feet room even though the Devasthan was visited by the villagers throughout the day and especially in the time period when the heinous crime is said to have been committed as it was marked by important festivals. This is a serious crime which has shaken the entire nation and investigations must be taken seriously. Everyone naturally wants the investigations to be prompt and free of any delay. However, it is also necessary that the investigation into the crime is free from any errors and accurate to the maximum possible extent. The case must be handed over to the CBI for proper investigation so that justice can be brought to the departed soul.