Deepak Khajuria

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With the arrest of Deepak Khajuria, a Special Police Official (SPO) for his involvement in the rape and murder of 8-year-old Bakerwal girl Asifa, in Rasana village in Kathua near Jammu, the case seemed to head towards its closure.

Within days of Deepak’s arrest, the Hindu Ekta Manch (HEM), a newly floated outfit, took out a protest rally from Ghagwal to Hiranagar area in Jammu, carrying tricolours, and demanding his release. Interestingly the protests were led by BJP state secretary Vijay Kumar.

On January 10, the minor girl had gone missing from her residence in Rasana village. Her body bearing torture and signs of violence was found seven days later. As the news of Asifa’s rape and murder reached on-going Budget session of the assembly, protests rocked both the houses. This forced PDP-BJP coalition to hand over the case to the crime branch.

Within days, the concerned police officer was attached and a SIT was constituted that arrested Deepak and a minor boy for their involvement in kidnapping, raping and murdering the minor girl. The arrest came as a shock to many as Deepak was part of the police team that was searching for the missing girl for seven days.

However, after the arrest of Deepak, Kumar started mobilizing people in Kathua demanding his release.

“We are against the murder of the girl but we don’t want our men framed. We have lost faith in police investigations,” said a member of HEM.

Kumar told media that they don’t trust the Crime Branch of the state because they have mishandled many cases in the past as well. “Take the example of the Asiya-Neelofar case in Kashmir. This is why we want an impartial probe by CBI.”

Enraged by the HEM’s rally in support of the accused, Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti took to Twitter to assert the law will take its own course: “Appalled by the marches and protests in defense of the recently apprehended rapist in Kathua.” She termed the use of tricolour in the rally as “nothing short of desecration”.

But even the CM’s assurance has not helped in silencing the simmering tensions in Hindu dominated Kathua district.

However, after Mehbooba showed her displeasure over a proposed strike call by HEM, the state’s BJP unit distanced itself from the rightwing group. BJP’s state spokesperson Arun Gupta told media persons that whoever has taken the law into his hand and committed a crime should be punished.

“If the SPO has committed any wrong, he has to face the law,” Gupta said the party has nothing to do with the right-wing outfit. “We don’t support the HEM. We don’t have any link with the organization.”

However, the demand for a CBI inquiry into the case gets louder after Jitendra Singh, a Minister of State in PMO, seconded it.

– Shams Irfan

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