Syed Afadul Mujtaba

After joining the police in 1984, Syed Afadul Mujtaba has put in 34 years in the police service. During this long career, he has seen many challenging assignments. When he was in Rajouri in 2003, it was a real hot seat he managed. Later, when he was posted as city police chief in Srinagar in 2006, it proved much hotter because of Amarnath land row and later the Shopian twin murders.

Now as IGP Crime Branch, Mujtaba is handling one of the most serious cases of his career: the Kathua rape and murder of a minor Gujjar girl, Asifa. The case is important because a brutal crime has been hijacked by the vested interests to divide the state on communal as well as political lines. The heinous crime, it has serious ramifications because the crime is linked with a larger conspiracy. Vested interests are seeking CBI investigation and using political influences not knowing that the investigations are being monitored by the High Court.

Apparently, the Police Crime Branch was supposed to probe a rape and murder but as the investigations picked up, motive seemingly emerged a larger extension. Tragically, in a polarised society, the motive is linked to the politics of the place. That is why it is so important. And the involvement of cops has added an embarrassment.

Asifa went missing on January 10, from her Rasana home and her blood-drenched corpse was recovered on January 17. The police were informed but it looked the other way.

Protests in the assembly led to the immediate shifting of the cops from Hira Nagar police station. Later, when CB took-over, they arrested two SPOs Deepak Khajuria and Surinder Verma. Kahujria was the person who had purchased drugs from a chemist that was eventually used on Ashifa. Interestingly, he was part of the police team that was mandated to look out for the girl. As the investigations proceeded, the revelations were shocking. The local police station had taken over the clothes of the slain minor girl for forensic examination but had sent them for mandatory testing after washing them. This has embarrassed the state police because it indicates the investigators were part of the hushing up process.

Now, police know the entire story. It was Sanji Ram, a retired revenue official, quite popular in his locality because he has helped the community earlier as a Patwari, who spearheaded the campaign against the Muslim Gujjars. As a star of recently floated Hindu Ekta Munch, his conspiracy has encouraged, a young man termed minor, already in police custody, to kidnap the girl, rape and murder her to scare away the community that owns ancestral property in the village. After her body was found, the family was prevented from burying her in their ancestral land because the village did not want a graveyard in the locality.

In order to protect the accused, the Munch has used the “good offices” of various cops, and more recently, that of two BJP cabinet ministers, Lal Singh and CP Ganga, addressed the protest rally and termed police investigation as “Jungle Raj”. But the High Court-monitored investigation has been going by the book.

While Hawaldar Tilak Raj was arrested for washing Asifa’s blood-soaked clothes, the Investigating Officer Sub-inspector Anand Dutta was detained for questioning after sleuths found the crucial evidence destroyed. Now the CB probe has found that Sanji Ram was the custodian of the premises where Asifa was held captive for a week.

                  – Tahir Bhat

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