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Kathua rape case: Not possible to hide the girl in temple, say village women

Several village women claimed they visited the temple every day during the week in question while their children played around there.

india Updated: Apr 14, 2018 07:49 IST
Shiv Sunny
Shiv Sunny
Kathua/Jammu, Hindustan Times
Kathua rape case,Jammu,J&K
People take part in a candlelight march at the India Gate in protest over Kathua gangrape case, in New Delhi on Friday. (PTI photo)

The nondescript temple at the end of a narrow forested road in Kathua’s Rasana village has been in focus ever since an eight-year-old girl was allegedly bound, sedated and gang raped inside the structure three months ago.

But not many know that Hindu residents of this village also worship a tree dedicated to a “pir baba” (Sufi saint). This tree “shrine” stands next to the two-decade-old temple. The Muslim nomad residents, if at all, venture near the temple only in pursuit of their cattle.

The trunk of this tree shrine is wrapped with sacred threads and green cloth bearing prints of ‘786’ and ‘crescent and star’ (symbols considered holy in Islam). “We have been praying to pir baba for nearly a decade and also light a lamp under the tree during every visit,” said Shrishta Devi, a resident of Rasana village.

The 300 sq ft temple hall is bare, with just some posters of Hindu deities on its inner walls and a ‘devsthan’ (holy place) for the clan deities of local Hindus at one end.

According to the police charge sheet, the Bakarwal girl was confined under an iron table in a corner of the temple before she was killed.

The temple hall has doors on three sides and the police allege that its keys were in the custody of the family accused of committing the crime. Three members of this family -- including a 62-year-old retired revenue department official, his son and 15-year-old nephew -- have been held for the crime.

Villagers draw attention to the daily routine at the temple while dismissing the charges filed by the Jammu and Kashmir Police’s crime branch. “I can believe anything but the claim that the girl was hidden inside the temple. I visited the temple every morning and evening during that week,” claimed Beena Devi.

Several village women claimed they visited the temple every day during the week in question while their children played around there.

“The killers would be fools to hide a girl in there. At least a dozen devotees visit the temple every morning and evening,” said Anjana Sharma. “For us, the temple is like Mata Vaishno Devi shrine. No one would dare defy our deity by committing such a crime there,” Sharma added.

The villagers claimed the three sets of keys to the temple are in the custody of different families.

However, a crime branch officer, familiar with the case but not wanting to be named, said duplicate keys were made after the crime came to light. The villagers also claimed that the temple sees scores of devotees every Sunday when a ‘bhandara’ (feast) is organised. They said they had gathered there on January 13 and 14 to celebrate Lohri and Makarsankranti.

But the crime branch officer claimed that the alleged mastermind ensured the feast and the devotees were confined to the outdoors. “Since the girl was heavily sedated, it was easy to conceal her under the table. They covered her using plastic mats and rugs,” alleged the officer. The girl’s body was found on January 17 in the jungle, barely 100 metres from the temple.

First Published: Apr 14, 2018 07:49 IST