Kathua rape & murder: Chargesheet narrates sordid, horrific sequence of one man after another raping the little Asifa
BY MOAZUM MOHAMMAD
Srinagar: Former revenue official and custodian of Kathua’s Devisthan temple, Sanji Ram, had “separately” tasked his nephew and a policeman with kidnapping 8-year-old Asifa, administering her sedatives, and confining her in Devisthan temple. The conspiracy was hatched days before the little girl was raped and found murdered, the investigation by the police crime branch has revealed. The crime branch’s special investigation team took over the case a week after Asifa’s body was found on January 17, seven days after she went missing. It was Sanji’s nephew who kidnapped her. “He told Asifa that he had seen her horses. He led her to the jungle and called there Mannu (Parvesh Kumar @Mannu, whose assistance was sought to execute the plan), who was already waiting for his signal,” the chargesheet filed by the crime branch reads. “Sensing some trouble, the victim tried to flee away. The juvenile (Sanji’s nephew) stopped her by catching hold of her neck and covered her mouth with one of his hands and pushed her and she fell on the ground. Accused Mannu held her legs and the JCL (Juvenile in Conflict with Law) administered Manars (sedatives) one by one forcibly to the victim,” the chargesheet reads. After the girl fell “unconscious”, she was “raped by the juvenile” and later taken inside the temple (Devisthan). “Mannu also attempted to rape her but could not do it. Later on, they took the girl and kept her inside Devisthan under the table over two chatayees (plastic mats) and then covered her with two darees (cotton thread mats). Thereafter, both JCL and accused Mannu left Devisthan after locking it,” the chargesheet says. Next day at 12:00 noon, the accused Deepak came near the house of accused Sanji Ram and signalled the juvenile, who took keys and left for the temple. “Both of them reached Devisthan, opened the lock and accused Deepak Khajuria @ Deepu directed JCLto fetch water from a tap outside Devisthan. Thereafter, accused Deepak took out a strip of sedatives containing ten (10) tablets. While the JCL lifted the head of the girl, the accused Deepak Khajuria @ Deepu opened her mouth, put two tablets out of the strip in her mouth and made her to drink water and rubbed her throat with his fingers. Then accused Deepak Khajuria @ Deepu left from Devisthan and the JCL locked the door and hid the strip under a heap of dry grass nearby,” it added. At about 5pm, the accused juvenile went to the temple for lighting the lamp (Jyoti) and to make sure that the girl was “unconscious”. Next day, the chargesheet says, the juvenile telephoned Sanji’s son Vishal Jangotra (Shamma) about the kidnapping of the girl, and asked him to return from Meerut in case he wanted to “satisfy his lust”. Vishal returned to Rasana village on the morning of January 12 and the juvenile told him about kidnapping and confinement of the girl in Devisthan. “At about 8:30 am, the JCL again went to Devisthan and administered 3 sedative tablets to the girl while she was unconscious with empty stomach,” it added. After the family lodged a missing complaint with the police, the search for the girl began with the accused special police officer (SPO) Deepak Khajuria part of it. Investigations by the crime branch revealed that Khajuria “advised” the juvenile to give sedatives to the victim on time. “Accused Sanji Ram had already taken the accused police officials into confidence and settled the deal with them to take care of the things which would ensue in the process of the conspired plan… In pursuance of the settled deal, accused head constable Tilak Raj, who was also accompanying the search party, took accused Sanji Ram to cowshed and reiterated that necessary payments have to be made to the investigating officer of the case, that is, accused sub inspector Anand Dutta in order to save him and other accused from the clutches of law and also not to conduct further searches,” the chargesheet says. On the morning of January 13, the day Lohri festival was being celebrated in Jammu, Sanji along with his son Vishal and nephew went to perform rituals at the temple. “In the meantime, accused Mannu also reached Devisthan. The accused Sanji Ram left Devisthan from the back gate for performing some rituals and met Deepu who was waiting for him. The accused Vishal Jangotra @Shamma raped Asifa. Thereafter, the juvenile also raped the girl in presence of the accused Mannu. The investigation also revealed that after committing the rape, the juvenile directed accused Vishal Jangotra @Shamma and accused Mannu to leave Devisthan,” reads the chargesheet, adding, “JCL again took out 3 tablets out of the strip which he had kept under a heap of garbage near an electric pole outside the Devisthan and gave the same to the girl and again covered her with mats and dropped the utensil container in front of her in order to hide her,” it added. On the evening of Lohri, Sanji was told by his nephew that he and Vishal had gang-raped Asifa inside Devisthan temple. He told them that “the time was ripe to kill the girl”. “Accused Deepak also reached there. On the spot, accused Deepak Khajuria @Deepu told juvenile to wait as he wanted to rape the girl before she was killed. As such, once again the little girl Asifa was gang-raped firstly by accused Deepak Khajuria @Deepu and then by the juvenile,” the chargesheet says. “After committing the barbaric act of rape on the minor victim, the accused Deepak Khajuria @Deepu kept her neck on his left thigh and started applying force with his hands on her neck in order to kill her. As accused Deepak Khajuria @Deepu was unsuccessful in killing her, another accused JCL killed her by pressing his knees against her back and strangulated the girl by applying force on both the ends of her chunni (stole). Thereafter, accused juvenile, in order to make sure that the victim was dead, hit her twice on head with stone,” the chargesheet reads. As per the plan, the body was to be disposed of in a canal at Hira Nagar, which, however, could not materialise because the vehicle was not available. “The accused on spot decided to dump the body at Devisthan being the safe place till its disposal and, accordingly, the four accused namely JCL, Vishal, Deepak and Mannu lifted the body and dumped it in Devisthan while Sanji Ram was keeping watch outside,” the chargesheet reads. On January 15, Sanji directed his son and nephew to throw the body “in the jungle as it was not safe to keep it inside Devisthan anymore, as people were likely to visit Devisthan on the following day for Fanda which was to be performed by accused Sanji Ram himself.” Subsequently, the juvenile along with accused Vishal went to Devisthan where Sanji’s nephew lifted the body on his shoulder. “The accused Vishal Jangotra @Shamma locked the door and JCL disposed off the dead body by throwing it inside the jungle while accused Vishal Jangotra @Shamma was guarding outside (among the) bushes.” Forensic reports have also corroborated that the victim was kept inside the temple. A strand of hair recovered from Devisthan “matched” with the DNA profile of Asifa. Similarly, another strand of hair recovered from the temple matched with the DNA profile of Sanji’s nephew, “notwithstanding the fact that accused police officials SI Datta and Tilak Raj had made all efforts to destroy the evidence by washing the clothes worn by the deceased,” the chargesheet notes. “The medical opinion also established the fact that the victim had been kept without food and administered sedatives and her cause of death was Asphyxia leading to cardio-pulmonary arrest,” the chargesheet says.
Conspiracy against Bakarwals ‘abundantly clear’ “During investigation it has become abundantly clear that the accused (Sanji Ram) had a reason to act against the Bakarwal Community and hence the conspiracy ultimately resulting into the gruesome rape and brutal murder of an innocent budding flower, a child of only 8 years of age, who being a small kid became a soft target,” said the crime branch in its chargesheet. Apart from Rasana village, the mastermind Sanji was also against the settlement of Bakerwal community in Dhamyal and Kootah areas. He was motivating members of Hindu community to not provide land for grazing or another kind of assistance to them. The crime branch corroborated this charge by citing cases where Sanji’s involvement was established. Sanji had started “campaign” against a man named Harnam after he sold his land to a Bakarwal. Sanji utilised the services of former sarpanches of Kootah and Rasana villages against him, the crime branch has mentioned in its chargehseet. In December last year, Sanji had goats of Rashid, daughter of Chandia Bakerwal, “seized for watering his cattle at a pond near his house and Rs 1,000 was taken from him as fine for releasing the goats”. Sanji also collected Rs 1,000 as fine from Mohammad Yousaf Bakarwal for grazing his cattle in a forest pasture near his house. “HC (Head Constable) Tilak and SPO Deepak Khajuria were also against the settlement of Bakarwals in Rasana, Kootah and Dhamyal areas. They had already discussed this issue with Sanji Ram to chalk out a strategy for dislodging the Bakarwals from the area. They were blaming the Bakarwals on one pretext or the other and used to threaten them. Accused Tilak Raj and Deepak Khajuria also had some serious issues with Bakarwals over land occupation and crop damage being residents of the same area,” it says.