Three men sentenced to life for Kathua child rape and murder
Three others were given a five year sentence for destroying evidence
Three men have been convicted after they were found guilty of the rape, torture and murder of an eight-year-old Muslim girl in the Indian-held province of Jammu and Kashmir last year.
The girl, from a nomadic Muslim community that lives in the Forests of Kashmir, was drugged, held captive in a temple and raped by several people for a week, before being strangled and pummelled to death with a stone in January last year. Her body was found three weeks later.
Investigators said that priest Sanjhi Ram, Deepak Khajuria and Parvesh Kumar planned and carried out the crimes.
The other three men – Surinder Kumar, Tilak Raj and Anand Dutta – convicted were given five years for tampering with evidence.
The seventh accused person, Ram’s son Vishal Jangotra, was acquitted from all charges due to lack of evidence.
The prosecution is seeking capital punishment for the three men and will re-petition the sentence, as well as the acquittal of Vishal Jangotra.
All of the accused pleaded not guilty to the charges against them and a lawyer leading the legal team representing the accused, AK Sawhney, told reporters at the court that they planned to appeal the verdict.
The charge sheet for the case found that the treatment of the child was part of a plan to remove the minority Bakherwal Muslim nomads from the area.
Eight men, included the six convicts, were arrested last year, including a former government official, four policemen and a minor in connection with the case. Jangotra was acquitted and the minor will be charged separately.
The privately-held trial began a year ago in Pathankot, approximately 70 kilometres from Rasan village in Kathua district, where the incident happened.
The ruling sparked criticism of India’s ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) as some of its MPs opposed the charges.
Ram is a Hindu priest, adding to the tensions of the Hindus and Muslims living in the region.
“This is a victory of truth,” prosecution lawyer M Farooqi told reporters outside the court. “The girl and her family has got justice today. We are satisfied with the judgment.”
Fomer Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Mehbooba Mufti welcomed the verdict, saying on Twitter that she felt “relieved”.
“Credit goes to crime branch team lead by IGP Mujtaba, SSP Jala, Addl SP Naveed, Dep SP Shwetambri ,@DeepikaSRajawat & Talib for ensuring facts came to light despite hindrances. People all across India too galvanised support & stood up for this child,” she said.
Also on Twitter, K Surendran, the BJP State General Secretary for Kerala, said: “Finally Asifa gets justice and it strengthens common man's faith in the judiciary. But how long those victims in such cases in Kerala should wait for justice?”
Child sexual abuse is rife in India and government figures indicate that there has been a steady rise in offences against minors. A report from the National Crime Records Bureau released in December 2017 indicated that a child in India is sexually abused every 15 minutes. Most of the abusers are people known to the victims, such as parents, relatives and schoolteachers.
Updated: June 10, 2019 04:36 PM