By: Katherine Hewitt
Impunity Watch News Reporter, Asia
NEW DELHI, India – A major confrontation occurred outside a state courthouse in India- governed Jammu and Kashmir on 9 April 2018. The crime branch of the police were on their way to file a chargesheet against 7 men and a boy for the gang rape and murder of an 8 year old Muslim nomad girl on 10 January to 17 January 2018.
The men accused are a retired government official, Sanjhi Ram; his son Vishal, special police officers Deepak Khajuria and Surender Verma; head constable Tilak Raj; sub-inspector Anand Dutta; and a civilian, Parvesh Kumar. Lawyers representing these men, from the Kathua Bar Association, physically attacked the police in an attempt to stop them from filling the chargesheet. However, they were unsuccessful in preventing the filing. The Inspector-General of Police, Crime Branch, Syed Ahfadul Mujtaba said in a statement, “The chargesheet against the seven accused persons involved in the crime has been produced before the Chief Judicial Magistrate, Kathua.”
A separate chargesheet is being created and will be filed for the juvenile boy involved in the case.
The protesting lawyers want an investigation done by the CBI, which would be a federal investigation. They believes that the local court does not “understand the sentiments of the people.”
Many, including the family of the 8 year old girl, Asifa Bano, believe that the gang rape and murder was done to drive Muslims out of the community. Asifa was kidnapped on 10 January, drugged, gang raped, murdered in a temple, and left in the forest. Over 100 witnesses have testified and corroborated evidence that the police have.
Many of the supporters of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), India’s ruling Hindu party, and Hindu Ekta Manch, and affiliated party, have supported the lawyers protests. Typically, this party has taken a strong stance against rape and sexual violence crimes. At the same time the BJP has been criticized as not supporting minority groups.
Religious tensions have been growing in the community as a result. A Hindu strike, demanding the release of the accused, shut down the town (Kathua) where Asifa was from. Economic groups in Kathua and Kashmir are threatening economic agitation if the perpetrators are not brought to justice. Muslim groups believe that because those investigating are also Hindu, they will be biased and not bring justice to Asifa.
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Author: Katherine Hewitt
Katherine Hewitt is a first year Masters of Arts in International Affairs candidate in the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University. She is pursuing a concentration in Peace, Security, and Conflict. Her interests lie in ethnic conflicts, particularly in the Post-Soviet Sphere. She expects to graduate in December 2018.