Evading arrest following his involvement came to light, the alleged mastermind of infamous Asifa Bano’s rape and murder case finally surrendered before the Crime Branch in Jammu on Tuesday after his son was arrested from Meerut in Uttar Pradesh. With the arrest of the father-son duo, the Crime Branch claims to have cracked the case.
The accused Sanji Ram, an ex-revenue official, who galvanised street support in favour of Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe and also garnered the support of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), is the main accused, said the investigators. Ram’s son Vishal was also held from Meerut in Uttar Pradesh.
“The mastermind of the Kathua case surrendered on Tuesday morning. His son he was also arrested from Uttar Pradesh. He was involved in the rape and murder of the minor girl,” Jammu and Kashmir Director General of Police SP Vaid told Newsclick without divulging the details of what the investigators extracted from the two during questioning.
The duo is allegedly associated with the Hindu Ekta Manch, which had recently organised a rally and staged a sit-in in support of the perpetrators and to press the government to order an investigation by the central probing agency.
Ram – according to sources – was the custodian of the temple and cattle shed where the eight-year-old deceased victim was held captive for a week.
“The witnesses conversant with the fact and circumstances of the case have in unequivocal terms terms stated that the entire game plan of committing the offenses had initially germinated in the mind of Sanji Ram, who was bent on dislodging the Bakerwal community from Rasana village,” the Crime Branch told the Jammu and Kashmir High Court, which is monitoring the probe, last week.
“In order to execute his nefarious design, he (Ram) hatched a criminal conspiracy with Deepak Khajuriya (special police officer who was earlier arrested) and Shubham Sangra (who has now been declared adult by a medical board) for kidnapping and murder of Asifa. The accused Surinder Kumar (another special police officer) and accused Parvesh Kumar, were later made a part of the conspiracy to execute the plan. Needless to mention the accused persons arrested so far have also divulged about the involvement of Sanji Ram in masterminding the entire game plan ultimately resulting into the commission of offences of kidnapping, rape and murder of innocent girl child, eight years of age,” said the investigators.
So far, eight people have been arrested in connection with the gruesome crime. Four of them are police officials who were earlier associated with the investigation.
After Asifa’s body was found in a nearby forest on January 17, the initial probe carried out by the Hiranagar police, said that “significant presence of clay and blood spot” were found on the clothes of the deceased. However, the Srinagar-based Forensic Science Laboratory (FSL) reports dated February 1 and February 19 ruled out the presence of blood as well as any foreign article/clay on the cloth of the deceased.
“On the basis of the FSL reports, few police officials of Hiranagar police station were questioned. They deposed that a head constable was seen by them washing some clothes in late hours on January 17 – the day Asifa’s body was found. Accused Deepak Khajuria also confessed that the head constable washed the clothes of the deceased. Prima facie it seems that the head constable had, with the intention to screen the offender from legal punishment, intentionally caused the disappearance of evidence by washing the clothes before being sent to the FSL for examination,” the Crime Branch further told the court.
The head constable was arrested on March 7. “Role of other officials, who were associated with the initial probe, in the destruction of material evidence is being looked into,” they added.
Khajuria and Kumar allegedly confessed during their custodial interrogation that they made an attempt to rape deceased Asifa – who was abducted on January 10 while she had gone for grazing her horses, held captive for a week at different locations and raped before she was murdered.
Two accused – Khajuria and Kumar – also allegedly “assisted” Sangra when he “force-fed a toffee like substance called MANNAR” having a sedative effect on the victim. “After being administered the said drug, she became unconscious and thereafter she was raped by Sangra. Subsequently, the three accused took her to Devasthan, which is situated in the forest in Rasana village. She was kept there in confinement till January 14,” said the investigating team.