In yet another attempt to discredit the investigation by the Crime Branch into the Kathua rape case, a ‘fact finding report’ by a group calling itself Group of Intellectuals and Academicians (GIA), claims that there are discrepancies in the charge-sheet and that the Crime Branch “botched-up” the investigations. However, a close inspection of these alleged discrepancies suggests that these are nothing more than an aggregation of fake news stories and various conspiracy theories being floated by right wing sympathisers and trolls. What’s worse, is that the report suggests that the Crime Branch may not have done a good job because of the presence of Kashmiris in the team!
Meet the 'Intellectuals'
The GIA comprises Meera Khadakkar (Retired District Judge, Nagpur), Monika Arora (Supreme Court Advocate), Sarjana Sharma (Journalist), Sonali Chitalkar (Professor) and Monica Aggarwal (Social activist). The group that submitted its report to Union Minister Jitendra Singh and demanded that the case be handed over to the CBI. The GIA claims they met more than 25 people including the victim's family, the accused family members, the influential people from the Bakarwal community and others.
Argument-1: Presence of Kashmiris in Crime Branch Team"Three investigating teams rapidly changed one after another within a span of 10 days from January 12 to January 23. The crime branch team consists of two ethnic Kashmiris apart from the SSP Crime Branch Jammu who is also Kashmiri. In a sensitive case like this one and interstate like Jammu and Kashmir, this matters," notes the report. This clearly shows their communal bias given how while Jammu is Hindu majority region, Kashmir is predominantly Muslim.
The allusion to the incompetence and/or collusion of Muslim investigators in purposely tanking the case should ring enough alarm bells across civil society groups. This is also disturbing given how the charge-sheet clearly mentions that the little girl was raped and murdered because the accused wanted to scare and drive away the nomadic Muslim Bakarwal tribe from the region. The insidious communal colour becomes deeper when the report alleges that harassment by the Crime Branch is forcing Hindus to leave the Kathua region. With the scars of the Kashmiri Pandit exodus of the 90s still deep, such communally inflammatory allegations can cause further destabilisation in one of the most conflict ridden regions in the world.
Argument-2: Post Mortem does not mention Rape
The brutality of the crime had shaken people across the country forcing many to take to the streets. But the GIA report says that the post-mortem does not categorically state that the child was raped. "The charge sheet mentions gangrape by at least three persons over many days. This is not corroborated by the injuries described in the postmortem report. No such injuries are reported on the victim in the Kathua incident which according to the chargesheet is a gangrape. Postmortem report only mentions abrasions but no injuries," states the report. This is especially ridiculous given how the J&K Police had issued a press release shooting down fake news and categorically stating that the girl had indeed been raped.
This reeks of the popular conspiracy theory that involves two post-mortems! The theory claimed that the little girl was never raped as the first post-mortem report does not mention it. The conspiracy theory further alleges that rape was added in the second post mortem report to sensationalise the case.
Argument-3: Rape not possible at the Dev Sthan
Meanwhile, Arora maintains that rape would be impossible in a prayer hall that had multiple doors and windows and the keys of which were in possession of four village elders. "There is neither any basement nor any floor. There is only a 20x35 feet room where there is no furniture except a three feet table. There are three windows and three doors. The windows have only grills and they are not covered. You can see from outside what is going on inside. There are four keys to the Dev Sthan which are with four elders of the village. People come and go there frequently," she said.
But this has also been debunked by The Quint in a piece that takes down multiple conspiracy theories. It says, “The Quint has visited the temple/prayer hall where the police states the girl was held captive and can certify that it is not a crowded temple. The temple is located in the middle of nowhere, with no houses adjacent to it for kilometres.” The Quint adds, “It is situated on a hilltop and is isolated from the Rasanna village which lies about a kilometre away from the hall. The walk, which leads to the village, is a lonely one. It opens up to a number of houses including the home of Sanji Ram. It is on this same path that the body of the victim was found on 17 January. The chargesheet states that that the Devisthan was exclusively manned by the main accused, Sanji Ram, to exclude any other person in the area.”
Last-ditch effort to derail Justice?
Is this yet another move to derail justice after the spectacularly juvenile attempt by lawyers to prevent the police from filing a chargesheet? Or is this a last ditch attempt by right wing sympathisers to protect the accused whose goose has virtually been cooked? Either way, these repeated endeavours to spread ridiculous and often outright incorrect information, are part of the wider conspiracy to sow the weeds of doubt in a case that has been brilliantly investigated by a team of skilled investigators... and a case that will be fought with equal elan and grace by a dedicated lawyer in the court.
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