As this post was being readied, news has come that the entire team of BJP ministers in the J&K government has resigned.
Timeline of the incident
The gory details of the alleged rape and murder of an eight-year-old nomadic girl in a village in Jammu province, as delineated in the charge sheet submitted by the investigation team of the Crime Branch of Jammu and Kashmir on April 9, 2018, are nauseating. They have shocked the collective conscience of society, with much angst spilling out on the streets and through the social media. One can only empathise with the pain and trauma of the child who went missing in the jungle; her lifeless body was recovered from the bushes of the same jungle after almost a week.
The truth must come out about what happened to the child from the afternoon of January 10 to January 17, 2018, when her lifeless body was discovered. Why did the Police fail to file a charge sheet for three months?
It was on January 10, 2018, that the child from Rassana village of Kathua district, Jammu, went missing after going to graze horses. Her mud-laden body was noticed by a local in the bushes of the jungle on January 17, in a crumpled state.
However, one is saddened to note that the focus of a vocal section of the public is not on justice for the victim and her family. Instead, the murder and alleged rape are being given a communal colour, with an over-enthusiastic media pronouncing judgment on the issue. The communalisation, polarisation, and politicisation around the tragedy have vitiated the atmosphere, creating doubts if the victim shall ever get justice.
Meanwhile, a demand for a CBI inquiry has been raised in many quarters, on the lines of the Unnao (UP) rape case. An intense debate is on regarding whether the media should have disclosed the identity and picture of the victim with such vengeance all over the social media; in fact, the Hon’ble Delhi High Court has taken suo moto cognizance of this wilful departure from the law and issued notice to media houses which defied the law. Sadly, the misuse of the child’s name and photograph to whip up a public frenzy continued for at least 48 hours thereafter.
A threadbare analysis of material in the public domain may help us to understand whether the hope for justice in this case will be realised or it has become a political tool for some vested interests. The religion of the child is not pertinent here, and it is wrong to presume that the perpetrators belong to another community.
Three Investigation Teams in 21 Days
Hiranagar (Kathua) Police began the first investigation immediately after the parents reported the child missing. Further investigation was conducted by another team. Finally, the case was handed over to the Crime Branch of the State Police on January 22, 2018. A huge disparity is visible in the handling and reporting of the case at different stages of the investigation. Different versions of the case have been documented in the process.
A Kashmir newspaper published a news item on January 19, 2018 with the headline “15-year old boy accused of murdering Kathua girl is arrested”. It quoted Minister for Revenue and Parliamentary Affairs, Abdul Rehman Veeri, commenting in the State Assembly that the “accused has confessed to the crime” and has also admitted that he had “kidnapped the minor girl and put her in nearby cowshed at village Rassana, where he attempted to rape her and when she resisted, he killed her by way of strangulation.” Apparently, there is no rape at this stage, let alone gang rape. The Minister said that further investigations are on.
However, the charge sheet submitted by the Crime Branch on April 9, 2018, after more than three months, has clearly named some more persons as accused, including four police officials, in alleged gang rape and murder.
Composition of the team
Eyebrows have been raised at the inclusion of a tainted officer, Irfan Vani, in the investigating team. In 2007, he himself was an accused in the custodial death of a minor in his custody and rape of the deceased’s minor sister. Charges of separatist appeasement have also been leveled by people and political parties on the State administration in constituting the team.
Discrepancy in timeline and police inactivity
The father has repeatedly said that he reported the matter to the police on January 11, 2018, but the charge sheet mentions the date as January 12, 2018. As per the charge sheet, the girl was murdered on January 13, but there is no medical evidence to support the claim that she was killed four days before her body was discovered in the jungle.
Father of the girl has accused the police of laxity during January 12-17, 2018 in tracing his missing daughter, despite the missing report registered. A Lookout Notice for the Girl appeared in a local newspaper four days after the dead body was already found and buried. This discrepancy on the part of Police is too glaring to be ignored.
Has evidence been tampered with and destroyed?
The charge sheet mentions that the frock-salwar worn by the victim was washed off stains before handing over for forensic testing “with the intention to remove the clay and bloodstains/sperms etc. and thereafter forwarded the same to FSL for expert opinion.”
The charge sheet is silent on when the clothes were removed from the dead body of the victim and was the dress again put on the dead body. Did it happen before the photographs were clicked of the dead body or was it done afterward?
The charge sheet seems to be relying more on alleged motives than on evidence, which is what is needed in the Indian legal system. Nowhere can one find any evidence of the accused persons’ involvement in rape (presence of their sperm, hair, or other vital evidence). Only ‘a strand of hair’ of one accused was reportedly found at the recovery site in the bushes of the jungle.
The alleged main conspirator is reported to have made a financial trail of lakhs of rupees in cash to bribe different people, but surprisingly there is not a single evidence of the financial trail detailed in the charge sheet; such as, from where and when the cash was procured in such a small village of 25 houses.
The charge sheet is full of typo errors which can be ignored, but even dates are not correctly recorded, one has to ponder its overall veracity. The report mentions that the case diary was handed over to the Special Investigation Team on 27.10.2018. “However, the case diary was formally handed over to Crime Branch Jammu by Shri Adil Hamid Ganai, ASP Samba, In-charge of earlier SIT constituted by IGP Jammu Zone on 27-10-2018 at 19.00 hrs in person at Crime Branch, Jammu.” That’s October. If it is a typing mistake, it means January. Both dates are impossible. This is a vital error in such an important legal document.
The charge sheet mentions that the accused Vishal Jangotra came to Rassana on January 12, 2018, and raped the victim at 8.30 am the same day at receiving a phone call from one of the accused the previous night inviting him to his village to fulfill his lust. The accused Vishal claims he was giving an examination that day, from 10.00 am -1.00 pm in Muzaffarpur, Uttar Pradesh.
The charge sheet mentions that the accused “in order to make sure that the victim is dead, hit her twice on head with stone”, whereas the photograph of the victim’s dead body circulated widely in media shows no sign of head injury and the hairband is still intact on her head, in addition to her shoes.
The family members claimed that the victim’s lips were bitten and during the gusul (final bath) the women of the family had seen mutilated genital parts, but these find no mention in the charge sheet.
The dead body of the victim was found in the bushes on January 17, 2018, and the father claims they had searched the bushes several times through the days while she was missing. According to him, it was freshly dumped there before it was discovered by a local, whereas the charge sheet reports the body was dumped on January 15, 2018.
The victim was allegedly confined and raped for six days in Devsthan, Baba Kaliveera temple of kula devtas of the local Hindus and devotees of at least three villages visit it regularly. It is a one-room structure with multiple doors and windows, with see-through grills and concrete floor. Worshippers visit it at least twice a day to light Jyot. The dates when the girl was missing included Hindu festive days of Lohri and Makar Sankranti (January 13, 14). It seems implausible that the victim was kept there, sedated and routinely raped and not noticed by any of the regular worshippers.
The truth must come out about what happened to the child from the afternoon of January 10 to January 17, 2018, when her lifeless body was discovered. Why did the Police fail to file a charge sheet for three months? Even when it did, it was an incomplete challan and the accused did not get a copy, for which the Court reprimanded the investigating team.
A fair and free inquiry should take place lest, like the Arushi Talwar murder case, this case too becomes a media circus and the culprits have the last laugh as the body of a child becomes a political tool for emotional manipulation and harvesting of outrage3.
1. Greater Kashmir website has deleted this post from their site. When you click on  below, you will be taken to a backup page where the post still exists.
 15-year-old boy accused of murdering Kathua girl arrested: Govt – Jan 19, 2018, GreaterKashmir.com
 Rape, murder of 8-year-old in Jammu and Kashmir gets murkier – Feb 2, 2018, ATimes.com
 Raped, sedated, rape ‘one last time’: Chilling details from Kathua chargesheet – Apr 11, 2018, IndiaToday.in
 India: Nationwide Protests After Rape of 8-Year-Old Muslim Girl – Apr 12, 2018, TeresurTV.net