There needs to be a judicial probe into the alleged rape and murder of an 8-year-old Bakerwal girl, Talib Hussain, a lawyer-turned-social activist from the Bakerwal community, has told The Sunday Guardian. Hussain claimed that the police has so far helped the real culprits to go scot-free. There is allegedly a growing mistrust among Bakerwals and Brahmins in many villages of Hira Nagar in Jammu and the Bakerwals have accused the Bharatiya Janata Party of trying to polarise the situation.

BJP workers, along with the lawmaker of Hira Nagar, are pressing for action against the Bakerwals, who they claim have started taking government land and building houses on it. The alleged rape and murder of the minor Muslim Bakerwal girl has now taken communal colours as the family was forced to bury her 10 km from her home by Hindus of the area, forcing Engineer Abdul Rasheed, Independent lawmaker of Kashmir, to question BJP leaders and say that the “Nirbhaya of Kathua” was not even allowed to be buried. 

The minor Bakerwal girl was allegedly abducted on 10 January. When the family went to the Hira Nagar police station, an FIR was allegedly delayed, leading to the suspension of SHO Suresh Gautum. When on 17 January, the body of the girl was found in a cattle shed, it resulted in a lot of protests by the Bakerwals. There was a debate in the J&K Assembly and the case was handed over to the Crime Branch for investigation. Initially, after the girl’s abduction, both Hindus and Muslims protested and demanded stern punishment against the culprits. As soon as the police claimed that a 15-year-old Hindu boy was responsible for the crime, the Hindus alleged that it was a cover-up and started distancing themselves from the protest by the Bakerwals. Reports said that Forest Minister Chadhauary Lal Singh, besides BJP Kathua and Hira Nagar MLAs Rajeev Jasrotia and Kuldeep Raj, as well as many other fringe Hindu elements allegedly started accusing the Bakerwals of usurping forest land. 

The Crime Branch has started investigations.

The minor girl’s distressed family finally met state Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti, along with other Bakerwal leaders, and apprised her of developments and the growing tension in the area. Talib Hussain, a social activist of Bakerwals who was earlier arrested by police for holding protests demanding justice, said: “We believe that the police arrested the wrong person to cover up the real culprits responsible for this crime. How can a 15-year-old boy keep a girl in a cow shed for seven days without any help? We also demand a CBI probe into the incident.”

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