Asifa Gang rape and Murder, Police Finally Files Charge Sheet

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SRINAGAR: History was created on Monday when lawyers in Kathua district court prevented the State Police Crime Branch from submitting the charge sheet in the Asifa murder and gang rape case. The accused involves seven persons and a juvenile.

Members of the Bar Association in Kathua protesting against the filing of a charge sheet by the police in the Asifa gang-rape and murder case.

The challan was finally submitted at the residence of the Principal District and Sessions Judge at his residence, informed sources said. There were two attempts during the day and the police delayed the submission in wake of the tense situation within the court premises.

People who witnessed the ruckus said the initially the police came at around 4:30 pm, to the court premises to submit the charge sheet. “Only one vehicle had reached to the court that the lawyers assembled and resorted to protest,” witnesses said. “This led the police to shift the accused to the District Police Lines and it took some time for the police to redeploy the CRPF within the court, around the DPL and at the residence of the Principal District and Sessions Judge.”

The second attempt also failed and finally late in the evening the charge sheet was filed at the Principal District and Sessions Judge’s residence. Police confirmed the filling. However, the police would submit the charge sheet against the juvenile on Tuesday. This charge sheet, though an extension of the same crime, is supposed to be separate because of the age of the accused and will be submitted before the court of the Chief Judicial Magistrate on Tuesday. The main charge sheet involves seven persons including two cops, two SPOs, Sanji Ram and his son Vishal and another private citizen.

Though the exact details of the charge sheet are still with the court of law, indications suggest the more than 65 days of painstaking investigations by a special team of the Crimes Branch have established the conspiracy, kidnapping, wrongful confinement, gang rape, murder and destruction of evidence. The Crime Branch took over the case on January 23.

Reports said that a series of tests have proved that the abducted minor girl was confined to space within religious premises, drugged and raped as many as four times before she died of asphyxia. The investigations have established that kidnappers had strangled her to death. The recovery of hair strands from the spot has established that the poor girl was detained and gang-raped there. Accused have admitted to their involvement in the case.

Asifa went missing from her Rassana village (Kathua) on January 10 and her corpse was recovered from the backyard of a place of worship on January 17. It was after a hue and cry over the case involving the minority Bakerwal community that the Crime Branch was given the task of investigations. Jammu newspaper State Times report that the investigations have established that the juvenile nephew of the temple administrator Sanjhi Ram (retired Girdawar of Irrigation Department) drugged the victim with clonazepam and committed rape on her twice on two different days.

“The FSL report has noticed evidence of the drug in the victim’s viscera. Sanjhi Ram’s son Vishal, who is a student of Bachelor of Agriculture Sciences with Chaudhary Charan Singh University Meerut, U.P, has been found to have raped the captive once. He was arrested by Crime Branch in Meerut,” the newspaper said. “Special Police Officer (SPO) with Hiranagar Police Station Deepak Khajuria has been found to have committed rape on the nomad girl once. The detained juvenile’s friend Pravesh Kumar has been found to have attempted but not physically committed the rape on the girl.”

The newspaper said that Sanjhi Ram, who remained underground and managed to organise demonstrations for shifting of the investigation to CBI before and after his surrender, will face charges of criminal conspiracy and assistance in the commission of the crime. Sub Inspector Anand Dutta, head constable Tilak Raj and SPO Sanjiv Verma of Hiranagar Police Station have been found responsible for destroying evidence which included washing of the victim’s blood-soaked clothes.

Political Connections

Given the strong political connections of the Sanji Ram, the issue was politicised by the right-wing BJP. Two cabinet ministers visited the area and spoke publicly against the police. They supported the idea of investigations by the CBI.

The statement of the Bar Association of Kathua in the Asifa case.

The involvement of the local BJP created a situation in the state that it was gradually emerging as the main polarising factor in the state. This led the ruling PDP, the BJP ally, to involve the central leadership of the BJP. It was at the request of the PDP that BJP secretary general Ram Madhav visited Jammu and publicly talked about the accused in the rape case should face the law.

Though Madhav’s visit closed the mouths of the vocal BJP cadres for some time, they regrouped and added to the tensions. The Monday protests by the lawyers and physical intervention in preventing the submission of the charge sheet were an exhibition of the renewed efforts to ensure the delay in the case.

Initially, everybody in the BJP including the MoS in PMO Dr Jintendra Singh was supportive of giving the case to CBI. Nobody knows why it should have happened at all.

Kashmir Times Report

Kashmir Times editor Anuradha Bhasin had visited Hiranagar on April 7. She had gone with the chairperson of the State Women’s Commission. Her report that appeared in her newspaper offers the detailed reportage from ground zero.

“When asked what CBI is, the women responded, “We don’t know; we only know it will do justice with us.”

As part of a women’s intervention initiated by State Women Commission to talk to those women, SCW chairperson, Nayeema Mehjoor, and I visited the hunger strike venue early this afternoon.

About 20-25 women were seated on a raised cemented square platform of about 10 feet by 10 feet, under a huge Banyan tree. Rugs and carpets were spread on the ground in front of the pedestal where about a same number of men sat or stood, raising slogans, “Bharat Mata Ki Jai.”

Two of them moved forward as we alighted from the car. “Please sit, and then we will talk,” the men said.

“We only want to meet the women and talk to them,” Nayeema said, as we walked past them and climbed up the steps to join the women.

The women told us they were on relay hunger strike because they feel that their family members have been wrongly arrested by the police.

The SCW chairperson asked them to have faith in the system. “The investigations in the case are being completed and then the case will go to the court. The judiciary cannot be biased. They go by evidence and they will decide on the case as per law and proof. The court will give justice. There is an institutional process. If you still feel an injustice has been done, you can appeal against the court’s verdict.”

“But they have only victimized our people, not theirs,” said a few women. “Why only our people have been arrested?”

“Do you know of the seriousness of the crime? A young girl has been raped and killed. Don’t you think that has been the biggest injustice,” we responded. “As women, is it not our duty to also talk about the safety of women, irrespective of their religious and caste identity? Issues of safety and rights of women are common for all women.”

Wife of Sanjhi Ram, one of the main accused in the Asifa rape and murder case, immediately responded, “We are not opposing justice for that girl. She should get justice but they have been wrongly arresting our men. We need justice too.”

“We don’t know who committed the crime against the girl, at this point in time. Police have picked up 8 men and are saying they are guilty. The case will go to the court and if your family members are found to be guilty, then what will you do?” Nayeema told them.

Earlier in March 2018, people march in defense of Kathua rapist holding flags of India.
Image source internet

“They have not committed the crime. We know, they haven’t done anything,” she retorted back.

“My son has been picked up three months back,” shouted one woman from among the crowd.

“It is their police who is arresting our people, not theirs,” another piped in.

On enquiry what they meant by ‘our people’ and ‘them’, one of them shouted from behind, “It is Mehbooba Mufti’s government and their Police.”

Nayeema clarified, “Police is for everybody. Do you know who is heading the police department in this state?”

“No, they have got Kashmir police especially to investigate this case,” the women said.

We asked whether somebody has misinformed them. There is only one J&K Police in the state and one Crime Branch for the entire state and the SIT formed for this particular case comprises mixed members, mostly from Jammu, we added.

“They are deliberately arresting our men, none of theirs,” some women, sitting on the right side said.

“If the police find some evidence against them, I am sure they would be arrested too. If there is no evidence against your family members and they are being wrongly framed, the court will let them off,” we said.

One of them came from the middle of the crowd and sat next to me. “They arrested them one by one and they have taken the men of our entire village,” she said.

“Four civilians and four cops have been arrested,” I reminded her.

She went on, “They are being tortured and made to confess and that is how the police are trying to prove our men guilty.”

“If that indeed is the case, the court does not treat confessions made in custody as admissible evidence,” we said.

Men standing behind us were making gestures with their hands and communicating with the women. And suddenly, the chatter among the women grew louder.

More men gathered and five-six women started talking at one time.

I requested them to speak by turn. There was a second’s silence and then one of them raised her pitch, “how do you think we feel? Our men have been picked up wrongly and tortured. There is no justice for us. Should we not get justice? Don’t you feel our pain?”

“Of course, justice is for everybody,” we said. “Even you agree, there should be justice done to the raped and killed girl. We agree that nobody should be wrongly punished. Then let the process of law take its course.”

Some of the men earlier sitting moved closer to the platform and stood in half a huddle; some continued to gesture with their fingers.

“And what of the torture they are going through?” the woman who raised her voice earlier shouted back.

“And what if he is guilty?” I said.

“Bring the CBI, then; Only CBI will do justice to us,” some women shouted in chorus.

A woman on the extreme right adjusted the slipping veil on her head and spoke, “you are educated women and trying to confuse us illiterate village women. We are simpletons. Just get us the CBI in this case and that is all we want.”

“Don’t you have faith in the police?” I asked. “They have nabbed their own department people also in the case. How did you see this as bias? Besides, they cannot decide the matter eventually. That will be decided by the court,” I added and asked, “Don’t you have faith in the court?”

A chorus response from the other side: “We have no faith in court or police. Only in CBI!”

When asked what is CBI, they say they don’t know but that ‘it would bring them justice’. One says, “it will set our men free”. Another says, CBI is an “organization that tells the truth”.

“How?” I quiz.

“We don’t know how,” one of the women replied, “But they know everything?”

“If you don’t know what CBI is, who is telling you to demand for a CBI probe?” I asked.

“Nobody. We don’t know anything. But we only want CBI probe?” some women yell back in chorus as we get up to leave, looking at the impossibility of a conversation.

A man taking photographs, or videographing the conversation, starts gesturing with his fingers again.

“You are also bought by Mehbooba Mufti,” two women shout, as another breaks into expletives.”

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