SRINAGAR: The father of Kathua rape victim, the little girl brutally killed in Kathua, has approached the Supreme Court through his counsel to transfer the case outside Jammu and Kashmir for the family's ‘safety’. Two parallel trials in the case are to set to begin in Kathua today.

“The father has filed a plea in the Apex court seeking transfer of the case outside the state for their safety and security. It will come up for hearing at 2 pmtoday,” Deepika Singh Rajawat, who is fighting Kathua rape victim case in lower courts, said, adding the case has vitiated the atmosphere of the state which prompted the father’s petition.

Amid mounting communal tensions, the family of the victim abandoned their home in Rasana fearing backlash from the majority Hindu community last week. Talib Hussain, a Gujjar activist at the forefront of protests in Jammu demanding punishment for culprits, was also assaulted by unknown men.

Family sources said the mother of the victim is putting up with her relatives in Samba district, while her father, Yusuf Pujwala, has moved along with their livestock to greener pastures of Kashmir, as part of their annual ritual as spring arrives in the state.

“He is presently camping in Sanasar area near Patnitop along with his stock which include some sheep, goats and horses. After losing two daughters to an accident some years ago, they had adopted the girl of his brother in-law but she too has left them. The tragedy has broken them,” Hussain said.

Over three months after her mangled body was retrieved, the trial in rape and murder case is set to begin in Jammu today with the opposition National Conference seeking capital punishment for the accused involved in the gruesome tragedy that has sparked nationwide outrage.

Officials said the sessions court in Kathua will be hearing the case against the seven accused, led by Sanji Ram, former state revenue officer, who was the main conspirator of the horrifying tragedy. The eight accused, a juvenile, will be tried in the court of Chief Judicial Magistrate Kathua.

“It is a water tight case,” J&K law minister Abdul Haq said, “Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti has already committed a fast track court to hear the case which will wrap up the trial in 90 days so that the victim gets justice without any delay.”

The J&K government has appointed two Sikh public prosecutors to fight the case against the accused, “It is a deliberate move to maintain 'neutrality' in the case following the Muslim-Hindu polarisation that took place in Jammu after the arrest of Ram and other co-accused,” sources said.

The opposition National Conference has asked the chief minister to call a special session of the state assembly and pass the bill for giving death penalty in such case, " Our party feels there should be capital punishment in such heinous crimes. Let the government call a special session of Assembly to pass the bill for capital punishment to the accused,” Abdullah told reporters at party headquarter yesterday.

According to the charge-sheet filed by the J&K Police’s crime branch, Ram was allegedly joined by his son Vishal Jangotra, special police officers Deepak Khajuria and Surender Verma, friend Parvesh Kumar alias Mannu and Ram's nephew, a juvenile, to kill the victim.

Investigating officers of local police, head constable Tilak Raj and Sub-Inspector Anand Dutta, who first investigated the case, allegedly took Rs4 lakh from Ram and destroyed crucial evidence, according to the charge-sheet. They are suspended for the time being but will likely face termination from service.

The trial will start amid simmering tensions in Jammu where the Hindu Ekta Manch, a shady group with links to the ruling BJP, has been holding protests in favour of the accused while demanding a CBI probe into the matter. The demand has been rejected by the state government.

The Hindu Ekta Manch has been supported by other groups including the Bar associations of Kathua and Jammu in demanding a CBI probe. Kathua Bar had offered to provide free legal assistance to the accused but retracted yesterday after the Apex court criticized the lawyers for impeding the process of justice.

The case took the country by a storm after the crime branch charge-sheet revealed that the brutal murder was planned by Ram and others to terrorise the Muslim residents of Rasana village, where the victim lived with her parents, into abandoning their homes.

The victim was abducted while grazing her two ponies, drugged using pills meant to control seizures and kept at Devisthan, a small temple of which Ram is the custodian, where she was repeatedly raped by police officer Khajuria among others. She was later strangulated and bludgeoned to death.

(Cover Photograph BASIT ZARGAR)