Kathua girl’s murder has created fear among residents

Accused Cop Had Reportedly Stated That Motive Behind Crime Was To Terrify Her People

UMER MAQBOOL / SYED RIZWAN GEELANI
Kootah, (Kathua), Publish Date: Feb 15 2018 12:50AM | Updated Date: Feb 15 2018 12:50AM
Kathua girl’s murder has created fear among residentsFile Photo

The 36-year-old Ali Jan curses the day when his father settled in this village four decades ago.

Ali and other members of his Bakerwal community are living in constant fear after a girl from their community was raped and murdered.

“We were always humiliated and abused here but now we feel that this place is not safe for us,” he said.

Fear and insecurity has gripped Gujjar and Bakerwal community living in Rasana, Kootah, Dumahayal and Kanah villages of Hira Nagar area of Kathua district after the brutal murder of the girl. A special police officer who has been arrested on charges of murdering her has reportedly told interrogators that the motive behind the crime was to instill fear among the Bakerwal community.

“We move to high-altitude areas during summers along with our livestock. Now we have apprehensions that our houses will be burnt or damaged if we move out of here. We cannot leave our children and women alone here,” he said.

He said their children now fear to venture out of their homes. 

“Our children are in shock. They don’t go out to play or take livestock for grazing,” Ali said.

The murdered girl had been abducted on January 10 when she had taken a mule owned by her family to a nearby pond. 

Her disfigured body was recovered seven days later on the outskirts of Rasana village. Her death has evoked widespread protests in and outside the state legislature, with the opposition parties and civil society accusing the police of not making efforts to find her after her abduction.

The arrest of the accused SPO, Deepak Khajuria, by the Crime Branch has raised questions over the investigation carried out by Kathua police earlier. The medical reports have confirmed the she was raped. Initially, the district police Kathua claimed that a minor boy was involved in the murder.

The local Bakerwal community had alleged that the rape and murder was aimed at frightening the community into abandoning the place.

“They want us to leave this village so that they could grab our land,” they alleged.

They also said that some locals didn’t allow them to bury the girl in a local graveyard. 

“We have purchased a piece of land for graveyard nearly 14 years ago and have buried five members of our community there. But they objected when we took her body thee. So we had to carry her body to a nearby forest for burial,” Ali said.

Hashim-ud-din, a resident of Kootah, said some local hooligans snapped water supply to a few households of their community after the incident. 

“They have been threatening us ever since the police arrested those involved in the murder,” he said.

In the just concluded budget session, National Conference legislator Javed Rana had also claimed that some anti-social elements had snapped water supply to Gujjar-Bakerwals families living in the area

A series of incidents during the past two to three years have created fear among Gujjar-Bakerwal community in Kathua, Samba and Jammu districts.

From a “selective” eviction drive to proposed displacement of more than 200 Gujjar families for the establishment of AIIMS, the Gujjar and Bakewal community is at receiving end in the region.

In February 2016, the controversial eviction drive had also led to killing of a youth from Gujjar community in Sarore area of Samba. The local goons had then allegedly torched more than 30 Dhokas of the Gujjar community.

Last year, five members of a Bakerwal family were attacked by self-proclaimed cow vigilantes in Reasi area of Jammu.

Former additional director general of police and vice-chancellor of Baba Ghulam Shah Badshah University(BGSBU) Masud Choudhary said there is certainly panic and fear among the minority community in Kathua, Samba, Jammu and Udhampur disticts.

“The provocative statements of fringe elements and some actions (in the region) have created fear among the minority community,” he said.

Senior National Conference leader Mian Altaf said the government should rein in the elements who want to vitiate peace in Kathua and Samba districts.

“I have repeatedly told the CM in the Assembly that there is a need to keep a watch on then elements. It is the responsibility of the CM and Union home minister Rajnath Singh to make these elements understand that they should refrain from the acts which have the potential to disturb peace in the region,” he said.

He said the CM should directly keep a watch on activities of these elements instead of relying on the local police and administration.

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