Jammu: Two Jammu policemen who were first tasked with investigating the rape and murder of an eight-year-old girl in Kathua attempted to destroy evidence against the accused by washing the clothes of the victim after she was killed.
Head constable Tilak Raj, under instructions from sub-inspector Anand Dutta, rinsed the girl's purple frock in Hiranakashyap police station till the garment was "dry cleaned", inspector general, Crime Branch, Syed Afhad-ul-Mujtaba, told this reporter. The rapists paid Raj and Datta Rs 1.5 lakh as bribe in order to destroy evidence, he added.
The two men are among eight people, including special police officers Deepak Khujuria and Surinder Kumar, who have been arrested so far. The IG said the clothes on the girl's body after she was found and photographed were "completely different" from the ones sent to the forensic lab in Jammu immediately after the evidence was gathered.
IGP Mujtaba said the FSL lab wrote to the Crime Branch that the dress which was sent to them by the police had no mud on it and looked like it has been "dry-cleaned" a few days ago. "We asked the police if we could meet the people who were investigating (the case), and how was the dress packed and sealed, and what happened later," Mujtaba told this reporter.
He added that within the first 15 minutes of sustained questioning, Deepak Khujuria, the special police officer accused of raping the victim twice, told the investigating officers of the Crime Branch that he saw head constable Tilak Raj wash the girl's clothes and he had done it on Dutta's instructions.
The investigators found that the minor's clothes were washed inside the police station, a few days after the victim's body was found. "When we got Tilak Raj, he said, 'Yes, I washed the clothes.' It took us 10-15 minutes of questioning," Mujtaba added.
The Crime Branch chargesheet submitted before the court last Monday claimed that the alleged ring-leader, Sanji Ram, has already taken the accused police officials into confidence and settled a deal with them to "take care of the things" which would "ensure the culmination of the plan". "In pursuance of the settled deal, accused HC Tilak Raj, who was also accompanying the search party, took accused Sanji Ram to a cow shed and reiterated that necessary payments have to be made to the investigating officer of the case, i.e. the accused SI Anand Dutta, in order to save him and other accused from the clutches of the law with respect to kidnapping and also not to conduct further searches," the chargesheet said.
The chargesheet said sub-inspector Anand Dutta and head constable Tilak Raj didn't collect vital evidence, and washed the girl's dress to help the accused. "Pertinently, another installment of Rs 1.5 lakhs was given to Tilak Raj by Sanji Ram at his residence for Anand Dutta. Similarly, Anand Dutta has not even collected the blood sample of victims from the board of doctors who conducted autopsy of victim at District Hospital, Kathua," it added.
The police has suspended all four men involved in the case, including the two SPOs, Deepak Khujuria and Surinder Kumar, but it can't be confirmed if they have been fired. Repeated calls to the director general of police were not answered.
Meanwhile, the policemen, Dutta and Raj, who were posted at the Hiranagar station where the case was filed, were among eight people arrested by the Crime Branch. They are presently lodged at the Kathua jail and have been named in the chargesheet for tampering evidence.
The chargesheet named Khajuria and Surinder Kumar as being partners in crime with Sanji Ram, who was named as the ring leader.
The following is a short transcript of this correspondent's interview with Mujtaba.
How did you establish the role of policemen in the incident?
There were photographs that were taken when the dead body was found; there was a lot of mud on the dress. But the frock that was sent to FSL by police was clean. The FSL wrote to us saying the same thing.>What was the next step?
We asked the police if we could meet those people who carried out the investigation. We wanted to know how they sealed the dress and sent it to FSL. Once head constable Tilak Raj arrived, and within 10 to 15 minutes of sustained questioning later, they told us they washed the clothes inside the police station. That was when the conspiracy was revealed.>Who was the first person you arrested?
The police had arrested only one person, that is the juvenile. When he was arrested, he used to tell us all the same stories. He had to be sent home in evening because he was a juvenile. One day he asked us why we were only questioning him and not Deepak Khajuria. It did not take us much time before Khajuria confessed. He said, "Yes, we have done it".>What was the sequence of the arrests?
First, the juvenile was arrested, then SPO Khujuria, and Pravesh Kumar. Then Tilak Raj. That was followed by Anand Dutta, who had taken money, and then Sanji Ram's son, Vishal Jasgotra and then Sanji Ram himself. The crime, according to charge sheet was planned by a former revenue officer, Ram, who wanted to drive out her nomadic community of Bakarwals out of the Rassana area of Kathua.