The now infamous Kathua rape and murder case has been given a communal tone by viral posts on social media. The chargesheet filed by the J&K police in the case revealed that an 8-year-old girl was sedated, raped repeatedly, and then bludgeoned to death in January this year.
Of the many fake news posts doing the rounds on social media, there is one with the headline, 'Why lawyers in Kathua are demanding a CBI Inquiry'. The contents of this post are outrightly false.
This image, which has been shared over 7,600 times on Facebook, was posted by a page named ShankNaad, a repeat offender when it comes to spreading misinformation. The page has more than 1.3 million Facebook followers and 17.4 thousand Twitter followers.
Of the seven points mentioned above, not one is true. Let’s take them down one-by-one.
ShankhNaad Known for Spreading Communal Hatred
For those who don’t already know of the communal disharmony and hatred the page tries to perpetuate, we have a few examples of the numerous fake stories that have already been debunked.
In September 2017, ShankhNaad posted a video on Twitter that showed a blazing fire, stating that “Hindu temple, vehicle and cows in Gaushala were set on fire by Muslims mobs in Hyderabad.”
The Hyderabad police confirmed that no such violence had taken place anywhere in the city.
Another example of stoking communal disharmony — in October 2017, they put up a photo of a beheaded Swami Vivekananda statue and pinned the responsibility on Muslims in Badhohi, UP.
The SP of Bhadohi, following these rumours, issued a clarification stating that one Premchandra Gautam had been arrested for the vandalism, and as the name suggests, he isn’t a Muslim.
The list of these instances is very long. One more example is from July 2017, when ShankhNaad posted a video of a police station being attacked in Shamli, UP. The accusation was that members of the Muslim community were responsible for pelting stones, rioting and arson.
Shamli police issued a clarification stating that this video was 2 years old and appropriate action had been taken.
Now that we’ve provided you with a history of the kind of ‘news’ ShankhNaad peddles, let’s look at each of the ‘facts’ mentioned in the image above and see if any of them hold true.
Allegation 1: 'First post-mortem report mentions only murder and not the rape of the minor'
According to the chargesheet, accessed by The Quint, there is no mention of more than one post-mortem being conducted. The post-mortem of the 8-year-old was conducted by a team of doctors in District Hospital Kathua on 17 January at 2:30 pm.
The medical experts said that the victim was found prima-facie raped before being killed, the chargesheet states. Furthermore, investigations in this regard have established that the victim was raped by more than one accused.
Allegation 2: It is impossible to hold someone captive and rape for 8 days in a temple which is always crowded and is situated in the middle of the street.
This 'fact' is wrong on a number of levels.
Firstly, the child was held captive not for 8 days but for 6 days. She was sedated and taken in on 10 January and her body was dumped on 15 January in the Rasanna forests by two of the accused, including the juvenile.
Secondly, The Quint has visited the temple/prayer hall where the police states the girl was held captive and can certify that it is not a crowded temple. The temple is located in the middle of nowhere, with no houses adjacent to it for kilometres.
Thirdly, if only someone from ShankNaad had visited the temple, they would know not to add something as inaccurate as it being situated in 'the middle of the street'. It is situated on a hilltop and is isolated from the Rasanna village which lies about a kilometre away from the hall. The walk, which leads to the village, is a lonely one. It opens up to a number of houses including the home of Sanji Ram. It is on this same path that the body of the victim was found on 17 January.
Fourthly, the chargesheet states that that the Devisthan was exclusively manned by the main accused, Sanji Ram, to exclude any other person in the area.
Allegation 3: The girl's body had mud deposits which did not belong to the area which suggests that she was murdered somewhere else and her body was thrown in the temple premises.
Wrong. There is no mention whatsoever of mud in the investigation submitted by the police, which includes opinions by medical experts as well. They however do mention clay in their investigation.
The chargesheet reads: “The investigation has established, on the strength of evidence both oral as well as scientific, that the accused SI Dutta and Tilak Raj have in furtherance of Criminal Conspiracy hatched between themselves and the principal accused Sanji Ram washed the clothes worn by the deceased at the time of her death with the intention to remove the clay and blood stains/sperms etc and thereafter forwarded the same to FSL (forensic science laboratory) for expert opinion.”
Coming back to ShankNaad’s assertion.
1. The first part of the statement – "The girl's body had mud deposits which did not belong to the area"
The chargesheet doesn't say that the clay found on her was not of the kind found in the area, it only states that police officials conspired with Sanji Ram to ensure the clothes were not sent in their authentic state for testing.
2. The second part of the statement – “which suggests that she was murdered somewhere else and her body was thrown in the temple premises"
The assertion that she was murdered somewhere else and her body was thrown in the temple premises is baseless. The body was found in the Rasanna forest and not in the temple.
The police also adds in the chargesheet that on the basis of expert opinion, one of the hair strands found in the Devistan matched with the DNA profile of the victim. Thereby confirming that the victim was held captive there.
Allegation 4: When villagers raised concern over Rohingyas being settled in the area, Mufti govt got rattled
Well, the government has allowed Rohingyas with necessary documentation the right to settle in Jammu, and the locals have had a problem since this matter began three years ago.
This is a issue non-exclusive to the Kathua rape case and hence its doubtful it would have the ability to ‘rattle’ a government if it has been around for almost 3 years.
Allegation 5: Mufti sends officer Irfan Wani to create a new case, who was previously accused of raping a girl and murdering her brother in police custody
The first part is wrong. Mufti didn't choose the members of the crime branch who were asked to do this task. The SSP Crime Branch, Ramesh Kumar Jalla, who is a Kashmiri Pandit, chose the members of his team.
When The Quint spoke to him about Irfan Wani and the various cases against him, Jalla said, "I wasn't even aware of these allegations against inspector Irfan Wani. I got to know after it was brought up in the media. The man was booked under a case of raping a girl and killing a young boy, but he was acquitted in both cases around 2014. If the man is acquitted by the judiciary of the country there is no sense to not include him as part of my team. I had an excellent team that did a good job of delivering a chargesheet."
Allegation 6: After Irfan Wani got involved, new report was created and 'rape' was inserted without any forensic evidence and locals were tortured in the name of investigation.
As mentioned under the first allegation, rape was never ‘added’ to the existing charges, it was always part of the investigation. This charge is based on the post-mortem that was conducted on the same day her body was found.
Allegation 7: To protect the real culprits, innocents were framed including the officials from Jammu Police.
Now, who the real culprits are can only be deliberated upon once the court debates the chargesheet and then decides the relevant charges.
Whether the crime branch is right in its chargesheet or not can only be debated in a court of law and not on a Facebook page that evidently does not care about being on the ground. Or have the necessary intelligence-gathering mechanism and reliable sources to make the blatant assertion that 'innocents are being framed, including the officials from Jammu police.’
(Clarification: The Quint updated this article on 15 April, 9:15 pm, by adding the details in the chargesheet of clay being washed off the 8-year-old's clothes as the result of an alleged conspiracy hatched between the police and Sanji Ram.)