Srinagar: The presence of two senior BJP ministers at a rally organised by Hindu Ekta Manch — an outfit formed recently to protest the arrest of the prime accused in Kathua minor girl rape case — may set up a major confrontation between the party’s leadership and J&K chief minister Mehbooba Mufti.
Chowdhary Lal Singh and Chander Prakash Ganga — who are state ministers of Forest and Industries and Commerce respectively, told the gathering that they would ask Mufti to transfer the case to Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).
The case is currently being handled by Crime Branch of Jammu and Kashmir Police, which has arrested three people, including Special Police officers Deepak Khajuria and Surinder Kumar.
An eight-year-old girl of the Bakerwal community was kidnapped, held captive, raped and subsequently murdered after she disappeared on January 10, when she has left her home to graze horses. Her body was recovered a week later in some bushes, not far from her home in Rasana village of Kathua district.
On Thursday, the two BJP ministers assured the Manch leaders of their support and claimed to oppose what they called was a “jungle raj” to make arrests at random.
The Hindu Ekta Manch had earlier claimed that crime branch officers were harassing people by picking them up at will in the name of the investigation. The charge was denied by the latter, who clarified that only three accused, against whom they have evidence, have been arrested.
“We too want that the real accused be punished but we will not allow people to be picked up randomly. What kind of investigations are they conducting?” said Industries minister Chander Prakash Ganga.
Forest Minister Lal Singh also questioned why was the case not transferred to the CBI, considering that they are the “premier investigative agency”.
The two were accompanied by BJP MLAs Rajeev Jasrotia and Kuldip Raj, representing Kathua and Hiranagar constituencies, besides other district level leaders and Manch office bearers.
The local leaders alleged that they do not believe in the Crime Branch’s investigation as it was being conducted “under pressure from leaders of the other community”. They also were not happy with the composition of the team as it was mostly of “people from Srinagar”.
The Police initially arrested a 15-year-old youth in the matter. After the Bakerwal community and local villagers began to stage separate demonstrations against the police probe, the state government first ordered a magisterial probe and later handed over the case to the Crime Branch, which arrested the two SPOs.
Following the arrests, another group of villagers formed the Hindu Ekta Manch. They even took out a procession waving the tricolour which drew a strong reaction from Mehbooba Mufti. She even tweeted expressing her displeasure.
“Appalled by the marches & protests in defense of the recently apprehended rapist in Kathua. Also horrified by their use of our national flag in these demonstrations, this is nothing short of desecration. The accused has been arrested & the law will follow its course,” she wrote.
Refuting the claims of the Manch, a Crime Branch officer told News18 that they are investigating the case on professional lines. “We have collected evidence and are proceeding on the basis of scientific and technical inputs. There are no random arrest,” he said.