11, Apr 2018 | Sushmita
Indian Association of People’s Lawyers (IAPL) has called out the insensitivity of Kathua lawyers who were openly supporting the key accused in a case involving the rape, torture and murder of a minor Bakarwal girl, from Rassana village in Kathua, Jammu.
In a statement released on April 11, 2018 IAPL, led by Sudha Bhardwaj and Surendra Gadling, has condemned the “communal propaganda of the right wing organisations and the lawyers obstructing justice” in the case. The little girl who was yet to celebrate her eighth birthday went missing on January 10, 2018 while grazing ponies. Her disfigured body was discovered in a nearby forest on January 17.
Despicable Attempts to Shield the Accused
On Monday, April 9, 2018, lawyers from the Kathua Bar Association, in an absolutely repugnant attempt to defend the accused persons in the case, prevented the police from filing a chargesheet in front of the Chief Judicial Magistrate in the case. The President of the Kathua Bar Association on the same day passed a resolution to keep work under suspension until April 12, while also calling for and supporting a complete Kathua Bandh on April 11.
IAPL has demanded that the Kathua Bar Association should withdraw its resolution which it said was “arbitrary and unconstitutional”, stop interference in the investigation (of the rape case) adding that the justice system should be allowed to take its course. IAPL demanded “a free and fair investigation and trial.” The statement noted how the lawyers, “in fact took pride in mobilising to prevent the police team from presenting the accused before the magistrate, taking measures to even physically block their way.”
One should recall here that February saw a bizarre procession taken out by the right wing group Hindu Ekta Manch (HEM) headed by state BJP secretary Vijay Sharma demanding the release of one of the accused, Deepak Khajuria. The representatives of the Manch had termed the arrest as ‘jihad’. Remarkably, the National flag was used in the procession. The Manch is also backed by Lal Singh and Chander Prakash Ganga, two BJP ministers in Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti’s cabinet.
Legal Activism of Hindu Right Wing groups
The statement noted that it has become a “growing pattern” in which in the name of “legal activism” Hindu right wing groups are essentially protecting the perpetrators of communally motivated crimes, which in this case, has also taken the gory form of sexual assault and complicity of state forces in destroying the evidence.
Bringing back the case of Shambhulal Regar, man responsible for killing a Muslim labourer from Bengal, the statement said,
While there are nascent reports of FIR being registered against the lawyers who obstructed the filing of the chargesheet, these actions of defending the largely Hindutva factions in case of rape of a minor, should be seen in the background of the consistent communal propaganda being pursued by BJP and RSS. Not long before this incident, members of a right wing group stormed the Udaipur District and Sessions court in order to support Shambhu Lal Regar, who killed a Muslim man on live camera. Regar’s criminal acts continue to be valorised by people supporting Hindutva ideology. In 2016, Kanhaiya Kumar was beaten up inside Patiala House Court premises, while being produced for his court hearings. It was found out later that the lawyers involved forced him to chant “Bharat mataki jai”.
The statement brought to notice an important point related to the supposed “legal activism” being used by right wing groups. It mentioned that in the first edition (2012) of the All India Hindu Convention, an annual convention jointly organised by the Sanatan Sanstha and its affiliate groups, the Hindu Janajagruti Samiti in Goa, the organisers called for Hindu lawyers to defend the members of the community who were jailed and facing trials in various cases across the country. This demand was reiterated in the sixth edition of the convention in June 2017, which was reportedly attended by 132 Hindu outfits. Consequently, several nationalist legal-rights groups that are headed by former RSS members or members of its legal wing, the Akhil Bhartiya Adhivakta Parishad have cropped up.
The statement said that the rule of law can’t be thwarted at the hands of any communal or political agendas.
The Jammu and Kashmir police’s Crime Branch filed the chargesheet, on Monday itself when additional forces were called in. It has named eight accused, the main accused being retired revenue official Sanji Ram, son Vishal Jangotra and nephew. Crime Branch had arrested them along with Special Police Officers (SPOs) Deepak Khajuria and Surinder Kumar, a Rasana resident Parvesh Kumar, Assistant Sub Inspector Anand Dutta and Head Constable Tilak Raj in the case. The chargesheet contains horrific details of the kidnap, subsequent sedation, multiple rapes, assault, dis-figurement of the dead body of the minor girl from Rasanna. On Tuesday, the team filed an additional chargesheet against the eighth accused, a juvenile.
The police has also filed an FIR against the lawyers for trying to prevent a Crime Branch team from filing the chargesheet.
*** Feature Image by Amir Rizvi