by Tasavur Mushtaq
SRINAGAR: On Wednesday, February 14 when a protest rally was organized in Kathua against the arrest of Special Police Officer (SPO) accused of rape and murder of eight-year-old Asifa, chief minister Mehbooba Mufti took on to the virtual world to express her anger.
“Appalled by the marches & protests in defense of the recently apprehended rapist in Kathua. Also horrified by their use of our national flag in these demonstrations, this is nothing short of desecration. The accused has been arrested & the law will follow its course,” she wrote on social networking site Twitter.
The rally which Mehbooba condemned was led jointly by the leaders of her alliance partner BJP and Hindu Ekta Manch threatening agitation in the case accused SPO is not released.
As Mehbooba was “appalled” by the protest rally, her coalition partner BJP leaders were at the forefront in seeking the release of the accused and a CBI probe.
Surprisingly, the Hindu Ekta Manch, is headed by state BJP secretary Vijay Sharma.
Warning government of serious repercussions BJP’s district president Kathua P N Dogra said the arrest of SPO is an attempt to suppress the ‘nationalist’ people of Kathua and also said this is a form of ‘Jihad’ and an ‘injustice’ to the people of Kathua by the government.
“Every day there is a new story. 15 Days ago police said a juvenile was involved who even had confessed the crime, Dogra said and added that “we even had doubt on that.”
Terming the accused SPO as innocent, the BJP leader said “I will tell you the fault of SPO, he was part of the investigation in a very fair manner and he had tried to stop anti-national people who shouted Pakistan Zindabad slogans and asked them not to shout such slogans. This is why he is behind the bars.’
Dogra alleged that “this is the reason how Crime Branch is taking advantage and this is being done on directions of few people and is part of Jihad.”
Dogra said if it would have been fair, then “there should have been equal representation of Hindu and other community in the team.” And added that the person who is investigating the matter “has the bad track record.”
This he said is an attempt to frame the innocent people and this investigation should be handed over to CBI. “If the government won’t do it, it is flame today which can engulf everything tomorrow and it would difficult for government manage the situation.
Pertinent to mention, Crime branch is headed by ADG Alok Puri.
Prominent among the BJP leaders who have taken part in protests is Rashpal Sharma, who was appointed by Mehbooba led coalition government as Vice Chairman of Jammu and Kashmir State Advisory Board for Welfare and Development of the Other Backward Classes in August 2016 and MLA Hira Nagar Kuldeep Varma.
Congress leaders of the area are on the same page with BJP. Taking part in the protests, the district president of Kathua Congress Committee and ex-MLC Subash Gupta along is also part of the Hindu Ekta Manch. The other Congress leaders prominent in the protests are former MLA Girdhari Lal and former MLC Subash Chander.
The Hindu leaders of the area in a meeting of Manch in Parshu Ram Temple have decided to boycott the Gujjars and has sought that the purchase of milk products and livestock from them should be stopped. “No one will sell any land to nomads (Muslims). Whosoever will be found even giving them fodder will have to face social boycott.”
Seeking release of accused, the Hindu leaders appealed to the people of the area that “they should not buy milk or live stocks from the nomads.” “They want to change the demography of the area and we will not allow them. We should unite to stall their business activities too.”
However, both Sharma and Varma have denied that they have boycotted nomads but confirmed to be part of the meeting.
However, Congress’s Gupta has also admitted of attending the Manch meeting and said that “we are of the opinion that the accused in rape and murder case of Asifa Bano should be put behind the bars but innocent people also not be harassed for the sake of investigation.” “We should not support any attempt to disrupt peace,” he added.
The social sites reacted to the protest march and posed questions on the chemistry of the ruling coalition.
In response to the tweet of CM Mehbooba, National Conferences spokesperson Junaid Azim Mattu wrote “Madam the march was led by a BJP leader. You are in an alliance with them and you are culpable in this desecration by association. Your speciality of eating the cake and having it too is crossing a very intolerable limit.”
A netizen Farooq Lone commented on Facebook alleging government of treating two communities differently. “When bakerwal community protested against the dastardly rape and murder of little girl they were lathi-charged and chased. Police escorted the goons who were out on roads to protect the criminal.”
Replying to series of tweets about the incident, Anil Pandit wrote on Twitter “Asifa of Kathua is the daughter of India. We spit on them who stood for accused. Why don’t you pose this question to Home Minister of J&K. Ask her why is she accommodating this SP. During his tenure as SP Udhampur two Kashmiris were burnt alive and now this episode happened.”
The budget session of assembly was in session when Rasana, a sleepy village far away from Jammu, in Kathua lost its sleep when body of missing eight-year-old girl was found, mercilessly done to death, seven days after she disappeared mysteriously, one km down her hill house where she had taken the horses to a ditch.
The family of the girl alleged she was raped and tortured before her tiny body was dumped on a roadside. It took several protests by the family, the intervention of lawmakers and a continuous reportage that government acted by suspending the local SHO.
The first response was police came to the Bakerwal family only to mourn the death. With uproar in assembly and protests by the family, the SHO was suspended and magisterial inquiry was ordered.
Later police claimed of solving the case by arresting a 15-year-old boy for his involvement in the crime. However, it was alleged to be the cover-up for the real culprits. After the allegation and the dissatisfaction, the case was handed over to the crime branch, which then set up an independent five-member Special Investigation Team (SIT), led by Additional SP Crime Branch Kashmir Peerzada Naveed.
The questioning of arrested minor bot led SIT to arrest SPO Deepak Khajuria and SPO Surinder Kumar. Surprisingly, Khajuria was part of the police team that searched for the missing girl and even part of the party which handed over the body to the family.
Sources said this was done to create fear among the members of the Gujjar community so that they would leave the area.
The local tribal leader told Kashmir Life that the crime was perpetuated deliberately on the minor to scare away the minuscule Muslim community in the area.
‘’Actually, the majority community does not want Muslims to stay there even on their genuine lands. The idea is to frighten them and dispossess them of their land and property. This is an RSS plan,’’ he alleged. He linked the incident with the literal banishment of Gujjars from the forests and, later, setting fire to their properties even outside the woods. The lower Jammu districts of Samba and Kathua have a 2 and 4 percent Muslim population respectively.