Kathua case: Irregularities in investigations stink of foul play

kathua, rape, media, salma
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The whole nation was shocked and felt terrible as the news of an eight-year-old who was brutally raped and murdered in a place of worship in Jammu, came to light. Shocked and angry, people took to social media to vent out their frustration and disbelief regarding the brutal nature and sheer heinousness of the crime.

The incident took place in Kathua, a region in Jammu where the main accused Sanji Ram allegedly lured and drugged an eight-year-old girl in a Mandir where several men raped and then murdered her.

The said incident took place three months ago. The main charge-sheet was filed by the Jammu & Kashmir crime branch on Monday with gory details sparking an outrage across the nation.

Although, there is outrage and demand for quick justice has been heard throughout the nation, there are few glaring inconsistencies in the charges-sheet filed by the authorities in this case. The charge-sheet filed by the SIT mentions that Vishal Jangotra, son of main accused Sanji Ram and a co-accused in the case, was not in Meerut on 12th January as his parents have stated. The charge-sheet alleges that Vishal was not at the examination centre in Meerut on 12th January, based on the CCTV footage that the SIT claims to possess.

However, Vishal’s parents have repeatedly insisted that their son was in Meerut and not in Kathua and have cited his attendance sheet as the evidence backing their claims.  On the 5th page of the charge-sheet the first mention of how Vishal was informed by nephew of Sanji Ram via phone call about the situation and asked to come over if he wishes to “satisfy his lust”. This telephone call occurred well after 5 PM according to the charge-sheet.

Attendance Sheet

On the 6th page it is stated that Vishal reached Rasana at 6 a.m on 12th.

If we go by the charge-sheet then Vishal would have to pack, find a proxy to take the exam next day and arrange transport at an extremely short notice and then take the trip from his house to NH 44 and make the 9 hour long journey all within 11 hours. This timeframe is not impossible but since neither the mode of transportation nor any proof of the journey undertaken by the Vishal is provided by the police or other sources, seems unlikely.

On the other hand, Vishal’s family has been staging an indefinite fast in Kathua for a fair probe into the matter. Vishal’s family has also accused the Kathua police of using torture to force confessions out of the accused.

With a case this sensitive, such irregularities are of utmost concern. Justice can only be done by revisiting these areas of inconsistency and taking measures to ensure a fair investigation so that the eight-year-old’s family can finally get justice and the perpetrators punished.

The case of the rape of a minor girl named Salma (Name Changed) in Kathua has shaken the length and breadth of the nation. The whole country has stood up to show solidarity with the family of the deceased 8 year old Salma (Name Changed). A couple of questions still remain to be answered satisfactorily in matters related to the case. There seems to be some foul play in the manner in which the investigations have been carried out.

The first point is the way in which the Bar Association and its members have been targeted by the Jammu and Kashmir Police and the mainstream media houses. The Bar Association was accused of allegedly favouring the rapists, taking their side and demanding their release.  They were even shown in a bad light for taking out a procession, again, allegedly in support of the accused rapists. While the true story was conveniently hidden from sight, the Jammu Bar Association had called for a strike demanding to put an end to the probe which was targeted towards the Dogras of Hiranagar. The Bar Association in reality wanted the case be handed over to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), which would result in swift and accurate justice without harassing the Hindu population of the neighbouring villages. They were raising the voices of the people who had started fleeing from their homes owing to the harassment being meted out by the team of investigators from Jammu and Kashmir Crime Branch.

The second point is pertaining to why there has been no urgency shown by the Jammu and Kashmir government to transfer the Salma (Name Changed) murder case to the Central Bureau of Investigation. The Kathua rape case has been handled by 3 different heads of investigation. The team constituting the first one had individuals who themselves turned out to be accused of accepting bribes in relation to the case. The matter was then transferred to the Crime Branch, which had individuals with previous crime records. The presence of Irfan Wani, a Crime Branch official, who himself was an accused in a murder and rape case in 2007, did not go down well with the public. He had spent over a year in jail on charges of custodial death and rape. This led to a new head being assigned for the investigations in the case. Ramesh Kumar Jalla, Senior Superintendent of Police (Crime Branch) was finally made head of the investigating team and he filed a charge sheet. The lack of any initiative by the Jammu and Kashmir Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to hand over the case to the CBI after a multitude of failures is another controversial stance.

The third point that needs to be brought up in relation to the Kathua rape case is the mainstream media which gave this whole incident a communal angle. The media made the accused criminals a poster of the Hindu communities in the Jammu area. It tried to portray the Bakarwal community as a target of the Hindu families. While the truth is nowhere near to it, the Bakarwal community and the Hindus of the area have always enjoyed a very cordial relationship. Moreover, there were no questions raised by the media on why the case had not been transferred to the CBI even after demands were made by Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP) ministers. 

The lack of outrage by the media houses on this critical point is very hard to understand. The Unnao case was handed over to the CBI as soon as possible, why then does the PDP want to keep matters in its own hands here?  

The accused, irrespective of their backgrounds or ideologies, must be punished. The harshest punishment must be meted out to them but the media should not become the jury and the judge in this matter. Efficient and adept hands should handle this case with the utmost sincerity and without interference.

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Abhishek Bhardwaj

Full time reader, writer and foodie. Has opinions on everything under the sun and not afraid to express them.
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