Javid AhmadSrinagar, Apr 16:
The “conspiracy” allegedly orchestrated by Shanji Ram, principal accused responsible for the abduction, rape and murder of an 8-year-old girl of Rasana, to evict the nomads from the Kathua was responsible for the incident.
At least three accused in the case, were against the “settlement” of Bakkarwals in the area that led to the horrific crime in January. The enmity among the majority Hindu community against the nomadic Bakkarwals has the two main reasons behind it: “one acquiring land by Bakkarwals and second animal grazing in forest pastures of Rasana, Kootah and Dhamyal area of Kathua.”
Shanji Ram, 60, a former revenue official who has been named a principal accused in the case, was against the settlement of Bakkarwals in these areas.
During the investigation, it came to light that Shanji always kept on motivating the members of his community (Hindu) of the area not to provide land for grazing or any other assistance to Bakkarwals, reveals a Crime Branch charge sheet.
Before Shanji’s plan to dislocate the nomadic community was executed into a ghastly crime, he had collected a penalty of Rs. 1000 as fine from the victim Mohammad Yousaf Bakarwal for grazing cattle in the forest pasture located near his residence.
Yousuf was not alone to have been penalised by Shanji. In December last year, when Rashid son of Chandia Bakkarwal took the cattle to a pond near Shanji’s house to feed water to the cattle, he seized the goats.
Rashid was charged Rs. 1000 by Shanji against the release of his goats, reveals the charge sheet.
The enmity in the majority community against the migratory minority community doesn’t end at the grazing of animals in forest areas by nomadic community.
According to the crime branch charge sheet, a Bakkarwal purchased land from one Harnam Singh son of Darbara Singh of Kootah but it was Shanji who campaigned against Harnam to cancel the land deal between them.
“He utilized the services of ex- Sarpanch of Kootah and Rasana areas against Harnam Singh and managed to stop the payment on account of installation of telephone towers in his land through the concerned Tehsildar on the plea that the land in question was a state land,” reads the crime branch charge sheet.
The issues could not be settled at the community level and the case finally landed in the High Court. However after Harnam Singh approached the High court he got the impugned order of Tehsildar quashed, says Crime Branch charge sheet.
Shanji was not alone. Head Constable Tilak Raj and Special police officer Dheepak Khajuria—also accused in the gruesome rape and murder of minor nomadic girl— were against the settlement of Bakarwals in Rasana, Kootah and Dhamyal areas.
Tilak and Khajuria had already discussed the issue with Shanji to “chalk out a strategy for dislodging the Bakarwals” from the area. The accused trio was blaming and threatening Bakarwals on one pretext or the other.
According to the charge sheet, accused Tilak and Khajuria also had some “serious issues” with Bakarwals over the land occupation and crop damage, being residents of the same area. Accused Khajuria also had entered into scuffles with Bakarwals.
The general impression among the Hindu community was that the Bakarwals “indulge in cow slaughter and drug trafficking” and that their children were becoming drug addicts, alleges charges sheet.
This enmity had been brewing between the two communities which had led to registration of various FIRs against each other at different police stations.
An investigation by crime branch makes it “abundantly” clear that the accused had a reason to act against the Bakarwal community.
“Hence the conspiracy ultimately resulted into the gruesome rape and brutal murder of an innocent budding flower, a child of only 8 years of age, who being a small kid became a soft target,” the charge sheet reads.
The nomadic Bakkarwals are mainly involved in cattle rearing in Kashmir. They migrate along with animals to mountainous areas in summer to feed their cattle and live in plains in winter. They mainly depend on cattle for livelihood and sell cattle and milk and milk products to support their daily life.
On 10 January when Asifa was searching for her ponies, which she used to graze in forests, juvenile heard her inquiring from a local woman about her horses and with intention told her that he had seen her ponies and misled her to the forest.
The victim underwent a horrendous assault, was kept in captivity in a temple for four days, drugged unconscious numerous times and gang-raped at least thrice by accused persons till she was brutally murdered and dumped in the forest. Her body was recovered a week later, on 17 January.
The main accused in the crime are Shanji his nephew, a juvenile and his son Vishal, a student of B.Sc. Agriculture at Akansha College Mirapur, UP, Parvesh Kumar and SPO Deepak Khajuria.
Other accused Sub Inspector Anand Dutta and Head constable Tilak Raj are facing charges of corruption to shield actual culprits and destroying crucial evidence while SPO Surinder Kumar provided assistance in executing the crime. Besides, they all are accused of having prior knowledge of the planning of the crime.