Sanjhi Ram, the main accused in the Kathua rape case, being brought to court. Photograph:( ANI )
The Jammu and Kashmir Police, investigating the gang-rape and murder of an eight-year-old girl in Kathua, have said that prime accused Sanji Ram told them he decided to kill the girl to save his son.
News agency PTI quotes the police as saying that during interrogation, Sanji Ram said the girl was first raped on January 10, the day she was kidnapped, by Ram's nephew, a juvenile, and killed on January 14. Her body was found on January 17 in a forest.
The investigators also said that the girl as kept in a temple where Sanji Ram was the custodian. The aim of the kidnapping was to scare and drive away the nomadic Gujjar and Bakarwal communities from the area, PTI quoted investigators.
Sanji Ram further told the investigators that he found out about the Kathua rape case on January 13 when the nephew confessed to him. The boy took a long time in carrying out a task given to him by Sanji Ram which enraged him, and he beat him up. That is when the nephew confessed to Sanji Ram about the crime he had committed, the investigators said, and also named his son Vishal as partner in crime.
Sanji Ram then decided to kill the girl as he did not want to leave any evidence that led to his son, the investigators said.
According to the plan hatched by Sanji Ram and other accused, the girl was taken out of the temple on the intervening night of January 13 and 14. Police officer Deepak Khajuria who joined them, wanted to rape the girl once more before she was killed.
The eight-year-old was killed on January 14, but things didn't go as planned.
The body of the child was to be transported and disposed of in the Hiranagar canal nearby. However, a vehicle could not be arranged in time. The juvenile, Sanji Ram's son Vishal, Khajuria and another accused Mannu lifted the body and took it back to the temple while Ram kept watch outside, the investigators said.
Further investigation showed that Sanji Ram told his nephew and his son the next day that his friend had refused to bring a car so the two had to throw it in the jungle.
Preparations for the abduction had started on January 7 when sedatives and 'manar' (local cannabis or bhang) were purchased, the police chargesheet said.
The child was sedated with 'manar' and kept in the temple covered with a rug and a mattress weighing nearly 15 kg, investigators said.
However, Sanji Ram's lawyer Ankur Sharma refused to comment on the investigators' version, saying it would not be appropriate for him to discuss defence strategy. "At least the defence lawyer should not be commenting on the merits of the case. It is like leaking your strategy as a defence lawyer," he said.
The police chargesheets - a separate chargesheet was filed for the juvenile - named Ram, his nephew, his son Vishal, SPOs Khajuria and Surender Verma and Mannu.
While Ram has been charged with murder, kidnapping and destruction of evidence, Mannu has been charged with kidnapping. The other three have rape added to the list of charges.
The chargesheet also names head constable Tilak Raj and sub-inspector Anand Dutta - who allegedly took Rs 4 lakh from Sanji Ram and destroyed crucial evidence.
All of them have been charged under Section 120B of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) for criminal conspiracy.
On January 23, the government handed over the case to the Crime Branch of the state police, which formed a Special Investigation Team and arrested the eight people. The accused pleaded not guilty on the opening day of the trial in the principal district and sessions court on April 16. The next hearing in the case is on April 28.