Kathua Rape and Murder: Former Revenue Official, Believed to Be Mastermind, Surrenders

The Crime Branch statement on the the Kathua gangrape and murder case comes in the wake of reports in print and electronic media as well as social media regarding the case registered at the Hiranagar police station in Kathua district.

Jammu: A former revenue official, wanted by the police in connection with the rape and killing of a minor girl, Asifa, in Kathua district of Jammu and Kashmir, on Tuesday surrendered before the crime branch in Jammu.

Sanji Ram (60), believed to be the mastermind behind the rape and killing of the 8-year-old Bakharwal girl in January, surrendered after his son was arrested from Uttar Pradesh on Monday.

The minor's body was recovered from Rasana forest in Kathua on January 17, a week after she went missing while grazing horses in the area. The incident sparked widespread protest in the state.

Asifa's case had sparked tensions between coalition partners PDP and BJP after two BJP ministers joined a rally of Hindu Ekta Manch, a right-wing body that was trying to pressure government to transfer the case to CBI. The Manch had been protesting arrest of the murder accused and suggested Crime Branch sleuths were terrorising “nationalist” people.

Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti rejected the demand of BJP for a CBI investigation into the case saying 95 per cent of the probe has been completed.

The case had even threatened to polarise the state when Manch activists alleged in their rallies that the rape was used to harass the majority community in Kathua.

“We have arrested eight persons in custody and all of them are accused,” a police officer said, adding "we will be building on the investigations to make it a watertight case. Expect us to file challan in the court of law shortly."

He said the arrested include two cops for destroying evidence, two Special Police Officers, a 19-year-old and his friend, who kidnapped and raped the girl, and Sanji Ram and his son.

Police sources said Sanji Ram was the one who set up the Manch to dump up support for the accused. Before Sanji Ram's surrender, police had rushed a team to Meerut to arrest his son Vishal.

According to the police, Sanji Ram and others had plotted to kidnap the minor girl to scare away Gujjars and the Bakerwal community from the area. They even prevented the burial of Asifa in the village to discourage them from settling there.

Among those arrested is Shubham, who was earlier believed to be a juvenile. He was charged with raping the girl. But tests have now revealed that Shubham was a major and testimonials prepared by board of doctors and accessed by News 18 confirm he is 19 years old.