“It was around 6pm and we were half-way into digging the ground when the villagers arrived at the scene and refused to let us go ahead. They produced documents to claim that the land did not belong to us.”
Jammu—When body of 8-year-old minor girl was discovered on January 17, her foster father, who had adopted her when she was a toddler, wanted to bury her on a piece of land in Rasana in Kathua district. The girl was gang-raped inside a temple, where she was confined using sedatives, and brutally killed later.
It was the same piece of land where his three children and mother were buried after they were killed in a road accident a decade ago.
But Rasana villagers opposed the burial, saying the land did not belong to the family from the Muslim nomadic tribe of the Bakarwals.
“It was around 6pm and we were half-way into digging the ground when the villagers arrived at the scene and refused to let us go ahead. They produced documents to claim that the land did not belong to us,” said the girl’s biological grandmother.
The girl’s five-foot-long grave is distinct from that of her four distant relatives who are buried nearby — it is yet to be concretised. A pile of wet mud with two large round stones at both ends is the only remaining earthly sign of the girl.
“As per our tradition, we do not immediately concretise the grave. We will do it when her parents return from their annual visit to the mountains with their cattle,” said a distant relative of the girl who owns the land.
According to the relative, the girl’s foster parents had purchased the property from a Hindu family over a decade ago. “But they did not go through the documentation process properly. So, the villagers found an opportunity to get back at us,” said the relative.
The Rasana Hindus, however, said the property never belonged to the girl’s family and they had been burying their dead illegally there all these years.
“The Bakarwals want to take over our land one by one. So, we couldn’t allow it. But it was us who suggested the alternative option for the burial” said Rohit Khajuria, a villager.
In the biting winter of January, the girl’s family carried her body to Kanah village – home to a dozen Bakarwal families. With scores of people in attendance, the body was carried up the mountain in the dark before the ground was dug and the child was buried.
“The girl’s foster parents would just not leave the spot despite the cold. The couple stayed there until 3am before we could move them to a room,” said the relative.
The 18-page chargesheet in the rape case stated that the girl was gangraped inside a temple, where she was confined using sedatives. The accused then strangled and hit her on the head twice with a stone.
Sanji Ram, caretaker of the ‘devisthan’ in the village in Kathua, about 90 km from Jammu, is listed as the main conspirator behind the crime.
He was allegedly joined by special police officers Khajuria and Surender Verma, friend Parvesh Kumar alias Mannu, Ram’s nephew, a juvenile, and his son Vishal Jangotra alias “Shamma”.
The charge sheet also names investigating officers head constable Tilak Raj and Sub-Inspector Anand Dutta, who allegedly took Rs 4 lakh from Ram and destroyed crucial evidence.
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