10 questions raised by residents of Kathua and why they doubt the charge sheet filed

Earlier today, Swarajya magazine presented a comprehensive ground report on the Kathua rape case which raises questions on the charge sheet filed by the Jammu and Kashmir crime branch and also throws light on why the villagers are not convinced about the legitimacy of the investigation so far.

Sanji Ram, the only brother of six sisters, father of two married daughters is the main accused in this most abhorrent and rarest of rare crimes committed against the girl child in the recent, degradation is accentuated by the fact that he allegedly hatched the devious plan of abducting and mercilessly killing an eight-year-old girl of the nomadic Gujjar-Bakerwal Muslim community in order to instil fear in them to such an extent they leave the area forever.

His alleged crime is accentuated by the fact that he picked the abode of his family deities – devasthan, the holy place where he has been a pujari for decades – for executing his plans. Not only this, he involved his nephew and his son, studying in Meerut who allegedly joined later, in this nefarious crime. And when the going got tough, he agreed to throw his juvenile nephew under the bus and make him the fall guy. Under pressure, he revealed the entire plan to the cops, leading to arrest of all the eight accused. This is fundamentally what the charge sheet tells us, but the locals are not willing to accept this and disregard it calling it a ‘Filmy Kahani’, concocted by the police, by intimidating the accused, to suit the political boss’ narratives.

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There are many questions by the villagers doing the rounds, which raises fingers at the charge sheet produced by the police.

  1.  If the body was discovered on the 17th of January, how was it that the body did not emanate any foul smell even after three days.
  2. Why did no one spot the body while on their way to Devasthan, especially on 16 January, when they visited the shrine in large numbers?
  3. Why, in the cold of January, did the body not become stiff? Villagers claim that when they saw the body at a protest staged by Bakarwals, it was limp.
  4. Why would Sanji Ram’s sister send her minor son to stay with him had she known that her brother will deploy her son to carry out this heinous crime.
  5. Why would the key conspirator leave the body just outside Devasthan even on the day of Fanda when scores of people came and feasted in the Bhandara? Why didn’t he simply dig up the earth and bury the body? The charge sheet says the accused had washed the girl’s clothes to destroy evidence, but why would he just stop at that and not make any efforts to hide the body.
  6. How was it that the girl in the Devasthan on 13 January when lots of people visited the place, the day of Lohri, was spotted by none. We picked up darees from the table under which allegedly the girl was hidden, and placed them on the floor to sit and sing devotional songs. There is no chance a girl is kept under the table and no one sees it,” said Bishan Das, a 76-year-old Rassana resident who retired as subedar from the Army.
  7. How could Sanji Ram’s son, Vishal Jangotra, be in Meerut and Kathua at the same time? The crime branch investigation places Vishal in Rasana while the college records show that he was giving exams in Meerut.
  8. The charge sheet mentions that the juvenile hit the girl with a stone twice and “killed her by pressing his knees against her back and strangulated the girl by applying force on both the ends of her chunni.” However, according to the medical reports, the “…victim had been kept without food and administered sedatives and her cause of death was asphyxia leading to cardiopulmonary arrest.” Which one is it?
  9. The charge sheet says the investigation team found a hair strand in the Devasthan. If the girl was kept for days in the room, how come the cops found only a strand of hair there?
  10. How come the mastermind who supposed to have carried out the grand conspiracy turned out to be a nincompoop? When he spent lakhs in bribing local cops for covering it all up, why couldn’t he arrange a vehicle to bury or hide the body? Why, of all the places in the entire jungle, would he chose to throw the body in the open, barely a stone’s throw-away from his home, at a spot from where his house is the nearest and thus most vulnerable to suspicion?

This, in brief, is why villagers believe there is “a conspiracy from outside” and are alleging that “the girl was killed and dumped in Rasana”.

Moreover, there are two major facts that make villagers believe, that this was a “conspiracy from outside” and that innocents are being framed into this.

Conspiracy 1:

According to a villager named Bishan Das, the village transformer went bust on 16th January and a motorcycle was spotted around 3am. “The men riding the bike had wrapped ‘kambal’ around their body. It was cold. I could not sleep after this. Some 25-30 minutes later, the bike returned and left the village,” says Das whose house is at the entrance of the village. Villagers believe the bikers had thrown the body at the site themselves.

Journalist Swati Goel Sharma, who brought this ground report to the fore tweeted a video of a villager.

Conspiracy 2:

The girl’s body was sent to Kathua district hospital for an autopsy on the afternoon of 17 January. Villagers say that activist-lawyer Talib Hussain was also present. How did he reach Kathua from “his hometown Poonch in a matter of hours”, the villagers asked. Swarajya spoke to many residents of Kootah and Rasana village and all confirmed that Sanji Ram’s name was indeed taken on 17th itself. How was the name of the accused taken before even the final investigation had begun?

According to sources, the villagers feel that their reputation is being tainted by spreading false rumours and allegations. The vicious campaign is now targeting the entire Hindu community. We have seen Whatsapp and Facebook posts that depict condoms on Shivji’s Trishul with the girl’s dead body on one spike. It’s disgraceful how their focus has changed from demanding justice for the little girl to maligning the whole community. “Are our gods and our religious symbols synonymous with rape now?” fumes an angry shopkeeper at Kathua.

Swati Goel Sharma also tweeted a video of the villager whose picture has been circulated as the alleged rapist. He says he is getting threats and fears for his life.

Swati also tweeted a video of a local responding to allegations of being ‘defenders of rapists.’

There appear to be some holes in the charge-sheet filed by the Jammu and Kashmir Crime Branch and its coverage by the media has left a bad taste in the mouth. Whether or not Sanji Ram and others committed this dastardly attack will be decided by the competent agencies. But no one is ready to accept that Sanji would go to such lengths as to employ his own son and his nephew to carry out the evil plan.

While this crime has shook the conscience of the nation, the concerns of the villagers too cannot be dismissed. They have clearly said they want a fair probe and are not defending the perpetrators. They even said that they would walk the perpatrator to the noose if found guilty. One wonders then – what is so criminal in asking for a fair probe?

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