The right-wing outfit, Hindu Ekta Manch, has given a call to boycott Gujjar-Bakarwal community, for demanding justice for an eight-year-old girl, who was abducted from Rasana village in Hiranagar tehsil in Jammu and Kashmir’s Kathua district, brutally raped and murdered earlier this month. It was done allegedly by a Special Police Officer (SPOs) to strike terror in the extremely marginalised nomadic tribe that is found in the entire Kashmir region between India and Pakistan.
Earlier, the same group had carried out a march in support of the accused, holding the tricolour and chanting ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’. They had been pressing the government to release the SPOs – Deepak Khajuria and Surinder Verma – who had very recently been arrested by the Crime Branch of the state police after the investigators found him prima facie accused of committing the heinous act. Before his arrest, Khajuria was also part of the investigation team and had reportedly thrashed protesters from the victim’s community for daring to demand justice.
Demanding that the purchase of milk products and live stocks be stopped from the nomads, who are mainly goatherd or shepherds, the outfit has decided that no one will sell land to the people belonging to the tribal community, which happens to be Muslims and give them fodder. “Those found violating the decision will have to face a social boycott,” members of the Hindu group allegedly said following the meeting that took place on February 16 at Parshu Ram Temple.
The meeting organised by the Manch was ironically attended by legislators and leaders of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), an alliance partner of the ruling People's Democratic Party (PDP), and the Congress, among others. Hiranagar MLA Kuldeep Verma and and ex-MLC Subash Gupta – who is the district president of Kathua Congress Committee – are said to have taken part in the Hindu Ekta Manch meeting. The Manch has allegedly threatened agitation in the district against the arrests of the rape accused.
“They want to change the demography of the area and we will not allow them. We should unite to stall their business activities too. We should not buy milk or live stocks from them (the nomads),” the participants of the meeting unanimously decided.
Earlier, water supply to the tribe community was allegedly stopped.
However, Hindu Ekta Manch leader Vijay Kumar, who is a lawyer as well, denied the reports of call for a boycott. He also said it was a misreporting that the rally was taken out in support of the accused. “We are not supporting the accused at all. Those who are involved in the heinous crime should be given harshest punishment. Our only concern is that no innocent should be framed,” Advocate Kumar told Newsclick.
Asked who do they think are being framed, he said, “Two consecutive Special Investigation Teams (SITs) earlier said it was done by a minor boy (who has been arrested by the police) but now the Crime Branch – on the pressure of the state government – is saying that the SPOs were involved. It has created a doubt in us and therefore, we want an investigation into the incident by the CBI. And through our protest, we only demanded the CBI probe.”
Asked if he is trying to give a clean chit to the SPOs, he gave a confusing reply, “not at all but the question is how he came into the picture when the earlier inquiry had already established the involvement of the juvenile”.
Senior Congress leader Gupta, when asked, confirmed that he was part of the meeting. “I was requested to attend the protest march by the Hindu Ekta Manch leaders. They had also invited many other leaders, including the locals. We want the perpetrators to be arrested soon and put behind bars but at the same time, innocent people should also not be harassed,” he told Newsclick.
“I even suggested the BJP leaders who participated in the meeting that they should raise their concerns with the government instead of calling for a boycott,” he said adding that they will “not allow any attempt to disrupt peace and co-existence in the society”.
Gujjar leader Talib Hussain, the advocate was earlier detained while organising a protest rally against the incident, said the nomads of the region have always been targetted by the BJP and its ideological mentor RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh). “Our community has been facing an existential threat in Hiranagar, especially Rasana and Kootah. They (the saffron brigade) want us to leave the region. Such incidents are carried out to scare us,” he alleged.
“The Hindu Ekta Manch openly threatened us, during the meeting, that will meet the fate of Gujarat if we continue to live here. The pledged that the nomads will be soon be ousted from Kathua and Samba districts,” Hussain alleged.
Earlier, the nomads were allegedly not allowed by a group of people associated with right-wing organisations to bury the young girl in a graveyard.
The two SPOs are said to have confessed the crime saying that they along with the minor boy raped and murdered the girl after holding her captive for a week. Khajuria – said the police – had threatened his underage co-accused with the murder of his parents if he revealed his name.
The accused was deputed at Heera Nagar police station and were part of the police team that was tasked to search the area after the nomad family filed a missing report at the police station at Heera Nagar. The girl’s family had also accused him of being involved in the heinous act.