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HT analysis | In poll year, Kotkhai gangrape, murder takes political colour

Opposition BJP, Left gun for Virbhadra-led Cong govt over slow police probe

india Updated: Jul 15, 2017 08:19 IST
Gaurav Bisht
Gaurav Bisht
Hindustan Times, Shimla
Kotkhai rape,Himachal rape
A large crowd blocks road in Shimla in protest against rape and murder.(Deepak Sansta/HT)

The gangrape and murder of a 16-year-old school girl at Kotkhai couldn’t have come at a more inopportune time for beleaguered Himachal Pradesh chief minister Virbhadra Singh.

The state is going to the polls later this year and the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party was prompt to steer the public anger against the government and police for going slow on the probe into the case.

The outrage against the crime gathered momentum when photos of the rape victim’s naked body were circulated on social media. People took to the streets with student bodies affiliated to political parties resorting to candlelight processions, road blockades and silent marches in Shimla and Kotkhai, the apple heartland that has been a traditional Congress bastion.

Virbhadra, who is already facing cases of corruption, has come under criticism from his own party men. State transport minister GS Bali has opened a front against the chief minister putting his government in the dock over certain issues. He has condemned the rape and murder of the school girl and demanded action against officers responsible for delaying the investigation. It took the police nine days make a breakthrough in the case.

BJP leaders stepped up pressure on the government by demanding a CBI probe into the case, saying they doubted the police special investigation team’s probe. The public protests at Kotkhai, Shimla and Theog bolstered their stand against the government. Protesters went on the rampage at Theog on Friday, damaging police vehicles. BJP Chopal legislator Balbir Verma addressed the protesters, who raised slogans against the government and the police. BJP zila parishad member Neelam Seraikh staged a sit-in at Kotkhai police station in a bid to manage public perception.

Left with no choice, Virbhadra, who is also the state home minister, handed over the case to the Central Bureau of Investigation. “The mayhem and incidents of destroying of public property at Theog is politically motivated, as instead of having sympathies with the victim’s family, the matter is being given a political colour. We decided to refer the matter to CBI so that no doubts are left,” Virbhadra said, ordering the probe.

Upping the ante, BJP MP Anurag Thakur said, “The chief minister has all the time to visit Delhi over and again for his cases but has no time to visit the victim’s family at a time when the state is concerned about this heinous crime. People have been forced to protest for their security. The CM should step down.”

Former chief minister Prem Kumar Dhumal blamed the CM for the “deteriorating law and order situation”.

The Left also mounted pressure on the government. “Today’s situation has put the entire police force under serious doubt. The director general of police should step down,” said Rakesh Singh, a member of the CPM secretariat.

First Published: Jul 15, 2017 00:17 IST