Two BJP ministers in the Mehbooba Mufti government have resigned amid criticism over their publicly supporting the accused in the alleged gang-rape and murder of an 8-year-old nomad girl in Jammu and Kashmir’s Kathua district.
The incident took place in Rasana village of Hiranagar tenshil of Kathua in January this year. It is after nearly three months that the gory incident has evoked widespread outrage across the country with strong voices being raised by political leaders, social activists, civil society groups and Bollywood celebrities for awarding severe punishment to the perpetrators of the crime. They have also demanded against those who supported them.
The Supreme Court also stepped in on Friday and sent notices to the Jammu High Court Bar Association and Kathua Bar Association for preventing the J&K police from filing a charge-sheet against the accused, striking work over the issue and obstructing the victim’s counsel from representing the family in the case. The top court also decided to examine, of its own accord, the gang-rape and murder case.
Forest Minister, Choudhary Lal Singh, and Industry and Commerce Minister, Chander Prakash Ganga had participated in a rally held in Kathua on March 3 in support of a Special Police Officer Deepak Khajura and some others arrested by the police for their alleged involvement in the crime.
Singh and Ganga have submitted their resignations to their party president Sat Sharma who has, however, not forwarded these to the Chief Minister yet. The party sources said that Sharma has convened an emergency meeting of the party legislators including ministers and seniors leaders in Jammu on Saturday to discuss the issue.
The sources said that the duo has submitted resignations after being asked by the party high command amid increasing outrage and sustained media pressure across the country over the rape and murder incident.
Singh had, before the investigation of the case was assigned to the Crime Branch of the J&K police, also allegedly pressurised the local police not to make any arrests and instigated residents to violate prohibitory orders imposed in the area in view of tensions over the incident and police action. He had also reportedly said that raping and murdering the girl was not a big issue as “such incidents do happen in the world on daily basis”.
The duo had accused the J&K police of unleashing “jungle raj” and asked for handing the investigation of the case to the Central Bureau of Investigations (CBI) on the plea the local people had expressed lack of faith in police investigation. But Chief Minister, Mehbooba Mufti, had categorically rejected the demand for a CBI probe made by a delegation of BJP ministers which met her in winter capital Jammu later.
Prior to the controversial rally, the incident had taken a strange turn when large number of local Hindus took to the streets, waving the national flag and demanding unconditional release of the main accused Khajuria. The photographs of the protest march went viral on social media and Chief Minister, Mehbooba Mufti, shocked over the “abuse” of the national flag hit out at the protesters and reiterated that the law will take its own course.
The BJP ministers have tendered their resignations hours after opposition National Conference (NC) warned of launching a civil disobedience movement against the government if it failed to act against two the duo.