In Jammu rape-murder, retired Revenue Officer named but not arrested

SRINAGAR: An influential former bureaucrat named as the “mastermind” in the rape and murder of a 8-year-old in Jammu and Kashmir’s Kathua by the police is yet to be arrested while the pace of the investigation hinted it was being stifled politically, the family of the girl has alleged.

According to the police’s Crime Branch, 60-year-old Sanji Ram, a retired revenue officer, who was the main driver in the Hindu Ekta Manch protests against the Crime Branch probe, allegedly “motivated” Deepak Khajuria, a Special Police Officer and key accused to kidnap, rape and murder the girl with the intent of driving out Muslim nomad families from Rasana village in Jammu.

The girl was kidnapped on January 10 after which she was allegedly drugged and raped. Her mutilated body was found on January 17. Four accused, including two Special Police Officers, have been arrested in the case.

The Crime Branch has also arrested two policemen, including a sub-Inspector, for allegedly destroying evidence. The cops from Kathua district Police, investigating the case, had allegedly washed the blood-soaked clothes of victim before sending the evidence to forensic laboratory.

The Crime Branch’s investigation has met with stiff resistance from the Hindu Ekta Manch. The group has been protesting against what they say are wrongful arrests. Even the BJP Ministers in the Jammu and Kashmir government have joined the chorus against the probe and demanded that the case be handed over to the Central Bureau of Investigation.

Officials say Sanji Ram is also the custodian of the facility, referred to as “Devasthan”, where the 8-year-old girl was allegedly held captive for a week. Denying the allegations, he said, “I am not only person having keys of devasthan. People from seven villages come there and everyone has a key.”

The nomad families allege the Crime Branch has given in to protests and political pressure and deliberately avoided the arrest of Mr Ram. “Why has the Crime Branch not arrested Sanji Ram when they say he’s the mastermind? All the protests are taking place to shield him. This shows the direction where the probe is headed,” said Talib Hussain, a nomad activist.

He said the nomads trusted the Crime Branch probe only because Jammu and Kashmir High Court is monitoring the investigation. “The police is just trying to destroy the evidence and hush-up the case and this is now known to everyone,” Mr Hussain added.

The Crime Branch submitted the status report of the investigation before the high court in Jammu on Friday. The court will hear the case on Wednesday.

The investigating agency has denied any political pressure. “Investigation is being conducted in an impartial manner,” said SA Mujtaba, Inspector General of Crime Branch.

But while Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti told a group of BJP ministers that the probe is almost complete and the chargesheet will be filed in the next few days, the investigation appears to be far from over.

The district hospital in Kathua where Asifa’s post-morterm was conducted on January 17 has only given a preliminary report. The final medical report is still pending despite repeated reminders by the Crime Branch.

Experts say, normally it should not take more than a week.

The Medical Superintendent of District Hospital Kathua who gave the preliminary report was suddenly transferred. The health department, under the BJP, says it was a routine transfer and it had nothing to do with the case.