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Fighting Politics, Pressure and Protests: How Cops Peeled off the Hidden Layers in Kathua Rape Case

Despite violent protests and political pressure, the Jammu and Kashmir crime branch managed to put together enough evidence to nail the culprits in the Kathua rape and murder case.

Aakash Hassan | News18.com@Aakashhassan

Updated:June 12, 2019, 9:50 AM IST
Fighting Politics, Pressure and Protests: How Cops Peeled off the Hidden Layers in Kathua Rape Case
Kathua rape case main convict Sanjhi Ram being taken to the District and Sessions Court in Pathankot, Punjab. (PTI Photo)

Srinagar: The Valley was seething with anger when the Jammu and Kashmir police's crime branch took over the case of gang-rape and murder of an eight-year-old girl in Kathua last year.

Violent protests had broken out on the streets in Jammu in favour of the eight accused, six of who were convicted, three of them for life, in a judgment pronounced on Monday. And a lot of crucial evidence had been destroyed by the three policemen, each of who were awarded five years of rigorous imprisonment by the special court in Pathankot.

But the crime branch managed to put together enough evidence to nail the culprits. Many police officers who played a key role in the probe spoke to News18 about the details of what it was like to investigate India's most talked about crime story of 2018.

Ahfad-ul-Mujtaba, 58, the inspector general of J&K police's crime branch, was the man in-charge when one of his teams began probing the case. He says, “The accused have been convicted and it is certainly something satisfying. But I thought that they will get a stricter punishment.”

Ramesh Kumar Jalla, a Kashmiri Pandit from Srinagar who headed the probe, says he and his team spent several sleepless nights while working on this case. The SSP, along with his colleagues, finished the investigation and submitted a charge sheet on April 9, 2018, 10 days ahead of the 90-day deadline fixed by the high court. He briefly mentioned politics involved around this crime.

“I will not be a hypocrite and say that it was a very difficult case. There were protests against the investigations being done by us but I never bothered about it. A lot of politics was involved around the case, but I never got a call from anyone who would try to influence me," Jalla said.

It took Jalla and his team three to four days to crack the case. "The most difficult task was to keep the trail going on. We never sought any adjournment from the court and never failed to provide anything that the court asked for. The real task was the collection of the evidence which took us around 45 days."

When he first visited the place which police had marked as the crime scene, Jalla realised that “there was some issue with the police investigation”. “The first thing I did was question the police officers. The first person I interrogated was a sub-inspector who was investigating the case and it was from there that I got the first lead."

That sub-inspector, Anand Dutta, was found guilty under RPC 201 (destruction of evidence) and awarded five year of rigorous imprisonment. Jalla said he is satisfied with the investigation "but not happy", when asked whether he was happy to see the men accused of carrying out the heinous crime put behind bars.

"This is our job, there is nothing to be happy about," said Jalla, who retired from the Police services in April this year.

DSP Shewetambri Sharma, who was also part of the investigating team, says she is "happy that justice has been delivered. It is a victory of the Judicial and police system of India."

She told News18 that the case was not an easy one for her. "It was quite a tough case for me. There were a lot of people against us and there was pressure from different quarters. We were in the gaze of public, media and the Supreme Court. But my motive was one - to get the facts out."

Did her being a woman police officer in-charge put an extra pressure on her? "When we join the police force, we cease to think as male or female, we think like police officers. But in this case it never got out of my mind that an 8-year-old girl was raped and I am a female," Sharma said.

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| Edited by: Divya Kapoor
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