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UN Chief calls Kathua rape-murder horrific, says guilty must be held accountable

Saturday April 14, 2018 3:32 PM, News Network

UN Chief on Justice for Asifa

United Nations: Terming as "horrific" the rape and murder of an eight-year-old girl in Jammu and Kashmir's Kathua district, UN chief Antonio Guterres has expressed hope that the authorities will bring perpetrators of the brutal crime to justice.

"I think we've seen the media reports of this horrific case, of the abuse and the murder of a young girl. We very much hope that the authorities will bring the perpetrators to justice so they can be held accountable for the murder of this young girl," Guterres' spokesperson Stephane Dujjaric told reporters at his daily press briefing here on Friday.

The body of the eight-year-old nomad Muslim girl, was recovered from Rasana forest in Kathua district on January 17, a week after she went missing while grazing her family’s ponies. The girl was held captive, sedated and raped for several days at a local temple before she was murdered, according to the Jammu & Kashmir Police Crime Branch investigation based on DNA test, forensic evidence and post-mortem report.

Further investigation found the involvement of, among others, some senior police officers including former revenue official and alleged mastermind Sanji Ram (60). Sanji Ram surrendered before the crime branch on March 20 after his son Vishal was arrested from Uttar Pradesh, Greater Kashmir reported. A police constable and a sub-inspector were also arrested after the crime branch found they allegedly tried to destroy evidence after the crime.

According to the charge sheet, Sanji Ram had ordered his nephew and a policeman to kidnap the girl to terrorise members of her nomadic Bakerwal community into leaving Kathua district in the mainly Hindu Jammu division. The girl was heavily sedated, kept in a Hindu temple, and gang raped by at least three men over the course of four days in mid-January. She was later strangled and her body was found in the forest near the temple.

Another officer, Anand Dutta, who was initially in charge of the investigation, took more than $6,000 in bribes to cover up the crime, according to the police. Dutta even washed the clothes Asifa was wearing at the time of her death to remove any blood or semen stains, the charge sheet said.

However, right wing Hindu organisations reportedly supported by local BJP leaders are trying to communalize the incident. A group by the name of Hindu Ekta Manch was formed after the arrests of the Police Officers in order to save the accused by communalising the issue. According to reports, two senior BJP ministers Chandra Prakash Gupta and Lal Singh attended a rally organised by the Hindu Ekta Manch and directed the police not to make any more arrests. “What if a girl has died? Many girls have died here”, BJP minister Lal Singh has reportedly said.

Taking the same line, lawyers protested against the police and blocked the court in Kathua, Jammu, to prevent the Jammu and Kashmir Police Crime Branch from filing the chargesheet in the case. The protesting lawyers were demanding that the case be transferred to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) for a probe instead of being handle by the Jammu and Kashmir investigative authorities. After the protest outside the Kathua court, members of the Bar Association called a press release saying that all Bar members "strongly condemn the conduct of the Crime Branch in dealing with the issue."

The police however filed the chargesheet despite the resistance by the lawyers. "We’ve filed charge sheet against seven accused persons and charge sheet against a juvenile person will be filed separately,” Inspector General of Police (Crime Branch) Afhadul Mujtaba said, adding “There was some resistance and that has been tackled”.

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