Former Forest Minister Lal Singh and Industries Minister Chandra Prakash Ganga had addressed a rally organised by a pro-Hindu group Hindu Ekta Manch in March in support of the accused in the Kathua case. While Chandra Prakash Ganga had termed the arrest of the men as “jungle raj”, Lal Singh said, “Why such a hullabaloo on the death of this one girl… many such girls have died here.”
Amid a political storm over the former ministers’ remarks, the chief minister had reportedly told ally BJP that the duo’s continuation in the government had become untenable.
“Mehbooba Mufti should introspect… what had the two ministers (who resigned) done? We resigned so that peace is maintained in the country. We are the girl’s well-wishers. We want justice for her. The girl’s body wasn’t found for seven days after her disappearance. Mehbooba Mufti, who also holds the Home portfolio, must take moral responsibility for the incident and resign,” said Lal Singh.
The duo had resigned on Friday, and soon after said that they were asked by the party leadership to visit Kathua to pacify angry locals who were demanding a CBI probe into the horrific crime.
The eight-year-old girl — who belonged to a nomadic Muslim community – was kidnapped from near her home on January 10, kept sedated and gang-raped repeatedly for days by a group inside a temple before being killed, the charge-sheet filed by the state police’s Crime Branch said.
As their investigations over the last three months led from one arrest to another, certain groups, including Hindu Ekta Manch, worked towards rallying support for the accused. Several lawyers of the Jammu Bar Association had even prevented the investigating officers from filing the charge-sheet in Kathua district court last week.
Before the trial in the case begins today, the family of the girl has already decided to approach the Supreme Court to ask for a transfer of the case to some other state.
“We don’t think there is conducive atmosphere in Kathua for the trial,” said Deepika Singh, who is representing the girl’s family.
But the Jammu Bar Association insists that there are “defects” in the crime branch investigation and demand a fair trial. Jammu lawyers have been on strike for the last 12 days demanding, besides other things, a CBI probe in this case.
“We are not at all satisfied with the inquiry. There are 221 witnesses and they say further investigation has to be done. There are certain inherent defects in the investigation,” said Gagan Basotra, in charge of the association.
Meanwhile, demonstrations were held on Sunday in several cities across India, including Delhi, Mumbai and Bengaluru, Thiruvananthapuram, Goa and Bhopal today as public outrage over a spate of rape and murder of children spiral.