Kathua rape case
|Kathua rape case|
|Location||Kathua, Jammu and Kashmir|
|Date||10 January 2018-|
17 January 2018
|Abduction, Rape, and Murder|
|Sexual assault (rape)|
|Motive||Drive out the nomadic Muslim community of Bakarwals from Hiranagar Tehsil|
|Accused||Sanji Ram (priest of the private temple('devasthan') where the incident took place)|
Deepak Khajuria (police officer)
Tilak Raj (Head constable)
Arvind Dutta (sub Inspector)
Parvesh Kumar (Police Officer)
Vishal (Sanji Ram's son)
A Juvenile (nephew of Sanji Ram)
The Kathua rape case refers to the abduction, rape, and murder of an 8-year-old girl, Asifa Bano, in Rasana village near Kathua in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir in January 2018. A chargesheet for the case has been filed, the accused have been arrested and the trial began in Kathua on 16 April 2018. The victim belonged to the nomad Bakarwal community. She disappeared for a week before her dead body was discovered by the villagers a kilometer away from the village. The incident made national news when charges were filed against eight men in April 2018. The arrests of the accused led to protests by the Panthers Party, along with other local groups. One of the protests, in support of the accused, was attended by two ministers from the Bharatiya Janata Party, both of whom have now resigned. The rape and murder, as well as the support the accused received, sparked widespread outrage.
The 5600-word chargesheet filed by a Senior Superintendent of Police of Jammu, states that on 12 January 2018, Mohammad Yusuf lodged a complaint in Hiranagar police station stating that his daughter had gone missing. His complaint said that his daughter, aged 8, had gone to watch over grazing horses 30 minutes past noon on 10 January 2018. She was seen at 2PM, but when the horses returned at 4PM, she was no longer with them. After searching for her and being unable to find her, her father registered a First Information Report (FIR) with the police.
Discovery and arrests
On 17 January 2018, the dead body of the victim was found and taken into custody by the police to allow an autopsy to be conducted. The postmortem was conducted by a team of doctors at the District Hospital in Kathua at 2:30 PM on the same day. On 22 January 2018, the investigation of the case was transferred to Crime Branch and Crime Headquarters Jammu and Kashmir. A statement released by the police listed seven individuals who had been arrested and charged over the crime, including four police officers. A total of eight people, including four police officers, have been arrested so far. Two of the police officers were arrested on suspicion of attempting to destroy evidence, and also stand accused of accepting money to cover up the incident. One of the accused claimed to be 15 years old, though a medical examination later suggested he was 19. Sanji Ram, one of the accused, was described by the police as having devised the plan of kidnap and murder. The chargesheet against the seven adults accused of the crime was filed on 9 April. The accused were charged under Sections 302, 376, 201 and 120-B of the Ranbir Penal Code. A chargesheet against the remaining individual was under preparation.
The post-mortem revealed the presence of clonazepam in the body of the dead girl. The examination by the doctors found that the girl had been drugged with a sedative before she was raped and murdered. Forensic evidence suggested that she had been held for several days by Sanji Ram, one of the individuals accused of the crime. Strands of hair recovered from the temple matched those taken from the girl. The forensic examination stated that Bano had been raped multiple times by different men, and that she had been strangled to death, as well as hit in the head with a heavy stone.
Delhi Forensic Science Laboratory analyzed 14 packets of evidence containing vaginal swabs, hair strands, blood samples of four accused, viscera of the deceased girl, the girl’s frock and salwar, simple clay, and blood stained clay. Vaginal swabs matched with the DNA of the accused as did some other samples. Hair strands found in the temple where Asifa was raped matched that of the girl and the accused.
Sanji Ram is the main accused in the case. He is the priest of the family temple ('devasthan') where the incident took place. The 'devastan' is a private worship place not open to all. His son Vishal and his nephew, a juvenile are also accused in the case. The others who have been accused are Deepak Khajuria and Parvesh Kumar, who are police officers; Tilak Raj, a head constable and Arvind Dutta, a sub Inspector. The police are contesting the claim that the nephew is a juvenile. Vishal Jangotra claimed to be in Meerut attending an exam. However, according to the Central Forensic Science Laboratory (CFSL), his signature does not match the signature on the exam attendance sheet.
Aftermath and analysis
The rape and murder made headlines in India when the charges were filed in April. The rape and murder drew widespread condemnation. On 18 January opposition parties in Jammu and Kashmir staged a walkout from the Legislative Assembly in protest of the incident. Various protests have been held across Jammu and Kashmir.
Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti stated that the investigation would be carried out quickly. Mufti also stated that the death penalty would be made mandatory for individuals convicted of raping a minor. Maneka Gandhi, the Indian Minister of Women and Child Development, also expressed support for the death penalty in cases of child rape, and stated that her ministry would move a Cabinet note to amend The Protection of Children from Sexual Offenses Act act.
On 13 April 2018, the Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi, as well as the Supreme Court of India, made statements condemning the incident and said justice would be ensured. United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guiterres stated that the "guilty must be held responsible" and described the incident as "horrific". The United Nations also expressed hopes that authorities will bring perpetrators to justice.
A number of celebrities and prominent politicians voiced anger over the incident. On 12 April 2018, a candlelight march was held at India Gate, New Delhi. It was attended by Indian National Congress leaders including Rahul Gandhi, Sonia Gandhi, Ghulam Nabi Azad, and Priyanka Gandhi. An FIR has been filed against lawyers protesting in support of Hindu Ekta Manch. Vishnu Nandakumar, an assistant manager working for Kotak Mahindra Bank in Kerala, generated outrage on social media for condoning the rape on Facebook, and stating "it is better that [Asifa is] killed now otherwise she would have been a bomb tomorrow". He was later fired by the bank.
Due to the Kathua rape case and Unnao rape case incidents coming to the limelight in the national discourse at the same time, joint protests for both the incidents were carried out together in various parts of the country such as Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata and New Delhi.
Raj Shrikant Thackeray of the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena criticized the BJP for "supporting the rapists" and "communalising the incident". He suggested Sharia type punishment for the rapists. He said "These BJP leaders created Hindu Ekta Manch in Jammu which held a rally shouting slogans of Bharat Mata ki jai (translation: victory to mother India), waving the tricolour in favour of rapists. How can you even think of doing so? The eight-year-old innocent child was not even aware of her religion and had to undergo such a pain. Here we have a party which is protecting the rapists" 
The incident resulted in widespread anger across Jammu and Kashmir. Following protests by members of the opposition, the state government handed over the investigation to the Crime Branch of the state police. The chargesheet filed by the police stated that the abduction of the victim was planned in an attempt to get personal revenge by the accused, as well as to intimidate the Bakarwal community into moving out of the area. The Bakarwal people are a Muslim minority living in a Hindu-dominated Kathua district. The fact that Asifa was held in a Hindu temple increased the communal tension it generated. Local leaders of the Bharatiya Janata Party stated that the arrests had been made under political pressure, and asked for the crime to be probed by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti, whose People's Democratic Party shares power in the state with the BJP, rejected the demand. News reports suggested that the demand for a CBI probe was an effort to make the investigation lenient on the accused; the CBI is a branch of the Indian Union government, controlled by the BJP. Madhya Pradesh BJP President stated that militants from Pakistan were to blame for the rape and murder; his statement received criticism in the press. Individuals across party lines set up an organisation called the "Hindu Ekta Manch" (Hindu Unity Movement) which argued that the arrested individuals were innocent. The victim's community planned to bury her in a graveyard where they had purchased some land a few years previously. The victim's father stated that when the family attempted to bury Asifa, they were threatened with violence by right-wing Hindu activists, and were compelled to bury her in a different village.
Protests supporting the accused
Right-wing Hindu groups staged protests against the arrests of the accused individuals, who are all Hindus. Two ministers of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, Forest Minister Lal Singh Chaudhary and Industries Minister Chander Prakash, attended one of the protests. One of the protesters told The New York Times that the arrests were "against our religion", and stated that the protesters would burn themselves if the accused were not released. While attempting to file charges against the accused on 9 April, the Crime Branch police were met with protests from lawyers in front of the Chief Judicial Magistrate's office in Kathua. The lawyers were protesting in support of the Hindu Ekta Manch, and tried to prevent the charges from being filed; the chargesheet was submitted eventually, after police reinforcements arrived. This support for individuals accused of rape led to widespread social outrage.
Fines for disclosing identity of the victim
The Delhi High Court issued a fine of ₹10 lakhs (1 million) rupees on twelve media houses in India for disclosing the name of the rape victim as well as other details including the usage of photographs of the victim. This action by the High Court of New Delhi was taken suo-motu and under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 and the Indian Penal Code. The fine was to be paid within a week. The money collected from the fine has gone to the Jammu and Kashmir Victim Compensation Scheme.
The media houses included The Hindu, The Times of India, Republic TV, The Indian Express, The Week and NDTV. Lawyers representing media houses claim that the mistake was only made because there was a misunderstanding that the law in this case only extended to naming and revealing information related to rape survivors, and not rape victims. Following this, media houses across the country blanked out the name of the victim online in already published articles also.
The trial for the Kathua murder and rape case began in Jammu and Kashmir on 16 April 2018 before the Principal Sessions Court judge, Kathua. The second hearing was scheduled for 28 April 2018. The Supreme Court sought a response from the Jammu and Kashmir government regarding shifting the trial to Chandigarh by 27 April 2018. A demand by Bhim Singh, leader of the Panthers Party, for an independent inquiry by the CBI was heard and denied by the Supreme Court of India.
On 7 May 2018, the Supreme Court of India shifted the case from Jammu and Kashmir to Pathankot. The Supreme Court instructed the trial to be fast-tracked. The trial is closed to the public and press according to orders from the Supreme Court. The trial also is being held in-camera as per instructions from the Supreme Court.
On 14 November 2018 the family of the rape victim decided to drop their lawyer Deepika Rajawat. The application to remove the power of attorney was filed before the trial court in Pathankot, where the girl’s father said Rajawat won’t be representing them in the case anymore stating her security concerns and general lack of interest in the case. Over 100 hearings have taken place so far, but Deepika Rajawat was only present twice.
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“Ordinarily, police is the authority for investigation. A case has to be made out that it (investigation) is not going in the right manner. In the absence of that, as presently advised, we are not entering into that,” the bench told Senior Advocate and National Panthers Party Chief Patron Bhim Singh, who sought to intervene in the matter.
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