The shock of the brutal rape and murder of an eight-year-old girl in Jammu and Kashmir’s Kathua region has barely died down. Now it has come to light that it is not the only such case in the region. Two years ago, another minor girl—then 12 years old—was raped in the forests of Kathua, but it never made it to the headlines. This is the heart-rending story of a 14-year-old girl, carrying her infant and running from pillar to post, fighting for justice. She was grazing her cattle when she says she was sexually assaulted at knife-point by one Bindu, a 28-year-old man from the Rajput community.
Scared of the consequences, the girl didn’t say a word about her pain and trauma to anyone in the family. A few months had passed when her parents suspected something was not right with her and took her to the local doctor. They were in for a shock when the doctor confirmed she had been pregnant for seven months. It was too late for an abortion. On May 30, 2017, the girl gave birth to a baby boy.
“My daughter cannot go to school because she has a baby now. How will she face her friends and teachers?” asks the girl’s father. His daughter told him that the alleged rapist had tried to assault her a few times earlier too. She doesn’t remember the exact time of the incident, but says it was sometime during the monsoon that Bindu raped her inside the forest.
The girl’s family belongs to the marginalised Megh community who make a living by taking care of sheep and goat. Her father, the sole earning member of the family of 15, says he has already spent a fortune on the girl’s treatment. “Our livelihood depended on the cattle I had to sell for collecting money for my daughter and her baby’s treatment,” he says. They allege that the rapist is close to the local MLA and the station house officer (SHO) of the police station in Basholi tried to hush up the case. In fact, when the incident took place, the police refused to even register an FIR. They were forced to file one later on when the girl’s pregnancy came to be known.
Students protested across Kashmir demanding justice for the eight-year-old Bakarwal girl, who was raped and killed in Kathua
The accused moved court to get a DNA test done on the baby. The test result was negative, following which the girl’s family alleged it was just an eyewash. “The DNA samples were not sealed after collection,” says the father, who suspects the samples were replaced with those of someone else.
It was only after the girl’s family members saw news about the eight-year-old who was raped and murdered in Kathua’s Rasana village that they mustered enough courage to share their story with the media. A local lawyer helped them arrange a press conference. But that didn’t work as nobody picked up the story.
That’s when lawyer Deepika Rajawat, who had risen to national prominence after taking up the eight-year-old’s case, stepped in. “I invited the girl to my house,” says Rajawat. “When I opened the door, I saw a small girl wearing a faded, torn kurti standing with a baby. She seemed too exhausted due to handling the baby as she was herself a child. Slowly, she narrated her entire ordeal.” Rajawat went on to file a petition demanding a proper investigation to ensure justice for the girl.
The family allege the SHO offered them Rs 5 lakh to keep quiet. The SHO, Sukhvir Singh, however, denies the charge. “The girl was eight-months pregnant then. We filed an FIR immediately after recording her statement,” he says. “During the investigation, the girl named the accused. We did a DNA test, but it showed the accused is not the father. How could we then keep him in the lock-up?”
Rajawat counters, “The fact is that a 12-year-old girl has given birth to a child. It is statutory rape. We are only demanding that the police conduct a fair investigation and arrest the culprit. I am in talks with the state government. I am sure something will turn up within few days.”
Last week, the high court ordered the setting up of a special investigation team to probe this case. Will this girl get justice in the end, even if it is delayed?