Amidst widespread condemnation of lawyers of the State of Jammu and Kashmir calling a strike allegedly in defence of the accused in the matter of rape and murder of an eight-year-old girl in Kathua, a resolution passed by the Jammu and Kashmir High Court Bar Association has now come to fore attempting to clarifying its stand.
In a press release dated 13 April, the Association notes that the State Government has "miserably failed" to protect the family of the rape victim. It then urges the State to provide adequate monetary compensation as well as security to the victim's family.
The resolution goes on to clarify that the demand for a CBI investigation into the case "does not tantamount to shielding the real accused", and that its intention was to ensure a fair and independent probe into the matter.
Curiously, the resolution asserts that the Kathua case is only one of the issues being highlighted by the ongoing agitation and that the first of their concerns was regarding deportation of illegally settled Rohingyas. It alleges that Rohingyas have settled in and around Jammu city with "active connivance" of the State Government and that they pose a "grave threat" to the people of Jammu region.
The resolution then acknowledges that the protests are being perceived by the general public as being made on communal lines, and blames this perception on people with vested interests. It, therefore, appeals to the society to "consider the on-going agitation in the larger perspective of deportation of Rohingyas".
While the resolution was passed last week, it is yet to be seen whether the Association will act on the Bar Council of India's directive to call off the strike, and resume court work from Monday. The Bar Associations of High Court of Jammu, Kathua Bar Association and all other Bar Association of State of Jammu have also been directed to convene emergent meetings on Monday and take a decision to put an end to the strike.
Evidence of gang-rape and murder found
In January this year, an eight-year-old girl belonging to Bakarwal-Gujjar community was abducted, raped and murdered in Rassana village in Hiranagar tehsil of Kathua district. Her body was recovered from Rassana forest in Kathua on 17 January, a week after she went missing while grazing horses in the forest area.
The available evidence suggests that she was brutally gang-raped before being murdered. According to a report in The Print, a post-mortem report indicated damage to the girl's uterus and death due to asphyxiation.
According to another report, Sanji Ram, a retired official of the revenue department is believed to have masterminded the heinous crime as a part of a broader conspiracy to create fear among the nomad 'Bakarwal' (goatherd) community in the village, so that they could be pushed out. Sanji Ram is, in fact, the custodian of the temple where the girl was allegedly held in captivity.
The Police has, so far, arrested nine accused, including Ram and his son, a police head constable, two special police officers (SPOs) and a sub-inspector of police.
To make matters worse, lawyers from the Kathua Bar Association had last week prevented members of the state police from filing a chargesheet in the matter in front of the Chief Judicial Magistrate. The lawyers allegedly "took pride" in mobilizing to prevent the police team from presenting the accused before the magistrate, even physically blocking their way. On the same day, the President of the Kathua Bar Association passed a resolution to keep work under suspension until April 12, while also calling for and supporting a complete Kathua and J&K bandh on April 11.
Read the Press Release Here