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J&K: BJP in fix as leader seeks release of cop accused in rape, murder of 8-year old after holding right-wing rally

By Our Representative
The rape and murder of eight-year-old nomadic girl, Asifa Bano of Hiranagar town in Kathua district, mid-January is blowing into a full-blown political controversy engulfing BJP, a partner in the Jammu & Kashmir (J&K) government, following a Hindu Ekta Manch (HEK) rally last week seeking the release of a special police officer (SPO) arrested for the gruesome act.
The demonstration, which took place from Ghagwal to Hiranagar in Kathua area last Friday, was led by state BJP general secretary Vijay Sharma, with people holding the tricolour in their hand, and shouting "Bharat mata ki jay", with local dailies carrying photographs showing J&K personnel providing an "escort" to a section of the rally.
Sharma, has opposed the arrest of the accused, SPO Deepak Khajuria, saying he has been "falsely implicated", even as hailing the "5,000 strong rally", saying the HEK was formed to "defend people from police harassment”, another BJP leader, general secretary (Organization) Ashok Koul, has said there should be "exemplary punishment" for SPO.
Sharma, significantly, not only headed the HEK march, but is also state party general secretary. Pointing towards HEK's links with the BJP, he reportedly said, "Members from BJP and other parties have come together under the banner of Ekta Manch". Koul, on the other hand, even as calling for thorough investigation , said HEK's protest was its own decision, after the "locals" alleged that police had framed the SPO, and the BJP had nothing to do with it.
Distancing itself from partial BJP support for the SPO, J&K chief minister Mehbooba Mufti, tweeted that she was "appalled by the marches and protests in defense of the recently apprehended rapist in Kathua", asserting, she was "horrified by their use of our national flag in the demonstration", calling it "nothing short of desecration".
According to the police, Khajuria and a minor boy, who has also been detained, were responsible for the ghastly crime which was discovered after a badly mutilated body was recovered from the Rassana forest in Kathua on January 17, a week after she went missing while grazing horses.
Sources have been quoted as saying that Khajuria threatened the boy that he would kill his parents if he told anybody about the incident, adding, the investigation by the Crime Branch of J&K police showed that the accused initially administered her a locally available intoxicant. Later they gave her diazepam regularly so that she wouldn’t scream for help and catch attention of passersby.
The sources further said, the accused had held the girl captive for seven days before murdering her in a brutal manner, adding, the police officials had identified the drug store where the accused had purchased drugs. Interestingly, Khajuria was also part of the police team that had “searched” for Asifa after she went missing on January 10.
Meanwhile, well-known state daily "Greater Kashmir",
has editorially accused the rally in Kathua in support of the accused as "the new low in the communal turn that the politics of the state has taken in recent years, notwithstanding the argument that the PDP-BJP coalition has prevented the communal polarization in the state."
"The rally was led by HEK headed by the BJP state secretary. The protesters demanding the release of the accused were carrying the tricolour to lend legitimacy to their demand. This forced the Chief Minister to tweet her shock at the development", adding, Kathua BJP MLA Deepak Sharma visited the area, but "held deliberations with the people of one community only."

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