Jammu: The rape and murder of an 8-year-old girl in Jammu & Kashmir’s Kathua has shocked the nation and sparked outrage but one woman has won praise for her determined effort to nail the accused. DSP Shwetambari Sharma, the sole woman on the Special Investigation Team (SIT) probing the Kathua rape-murder case, spoke to News18 about the difficulties she faced while investigating this case.
You cracked this case and the accused are now behind bars. But since then, you have been targeted. How does that affect you?
It is really quite shameful that something like this (rape) happens in 21st century India. The Prime Minister’s slogan is ‘Beti Bachao’ but when an educated woman fights to get justice for a ‘Kanjak’ (young girl) who was raped and killed, she is insulted and targeted. But my resolve is strong and I have faith in the judiciary.
How hard was it to crack this case?
When such a case is cracked, it’s not just because of one person. Our DGP SP Vaid played a key role and trusted the SIT, which worked under the guidance of our IG. We had a team of 6 and it was supervised by an SSP. The SIT in charge, Naved Peerzada, is from the Valley and is known for his credibility. The entire Jammu crime branch worked day and night to solve this case. We were attacked when we were collecting evidence and the Kathua SSP was asked to file an FIR. We filed the first chargesheet in this case in 72 days and we faced problems every day. As an officer, it hurt me to see the tricolor being waved to defend alleged rapists. People were discouraged from speaking to us. But we made sure we allayed people’s fears and told them that the innocent would not be bothered.
How airtight is the case?
Our preliminary charge sheet is ready and the supplementary one is left. Our case is solid because it is based not just on testimony but is corroborated by scientific evidence.
You have had to face sexism in these last few days. Is that something you faced even while the investigation was on? Did you face any difficulties as a woman during this case?
I never felt out of place among other police officers. I was never made to feel different by my seniors and colleagues. Sometimes, I would have to work late nights. Apart from being a police officer, I am also a mother and a wife. I was not able to give enough time to my child, who was writing exams during this time. I was not able to spend as much time with my husband as I would have liked.
Questions were also raised on your experience.
I was from the 2012 batch. Shortly after my graduation, I served in the Valley in Anantnag. I dealt with extremists and analysed them. I have been a police officer for six years. But I don’t want to talk much about that. Our focus should remain on getting justice for the 8-year-old girl who was raped and murdered.
Some people made a religious issue out of this case. How does that make you feel?
I am a Dogra woman. In Dogri, we have a saying – ‘Betiyan saanjhi hoti hain’ (all daughters belong to everyone). Daughters belong to every religion. So I don’t care what that little girl’s faith was. Let’s become human first and be Hindus and Muslims later.