The killers should be identified and hanged without delay, say Bakarwal girl’s agonised kin who are battling odds.
Bengaluru/Jammu: It’s that time of the year when the Bakarwals — the transhumants start their reverse migration from Kargil, Ladakh and Leh to the lower reaches of the Himalayas and pitch their tents (deras) in Jammu for the winter. The migration of Bakarwals and Gujjars — the single largest nomadic Muslim tribal community in India — is completed by November 15 when severe winter in the mountains sets in.
For Mohammed Yusuf, the maternal uncle and foster father of eight-year-old Ameena (name changed to protect identity), who was brutally raped and murdered in January this year at Kathua in Jammu, their return to Samba, a few kilometers from Kathua, is a nightmare. “Bahut zulm hua hai hum par janaab. Meri beti beqasoor thi. Sab bachche masoom aur barabar hotey hain, chahey woh Hindu hon ya Mussalman. (A lot of injustice has been done to us, sir. My daughter was innocent like other children, whether they are Hindu or Muslim). They killed her because they didn’t want us to camp in their areas,” sobbed Yusuf, while narrating the heart-wrenching incident on the phone.
Ameena was abducted on January 10 from Rasana village near Kathua in Jammu. She was reportedly killed on January 14 and her body was found in a forest area at Kathua on January 17. The custodian of the temple, where Ameena was reportedly kept in captivity -- Sanji Ram, his son Vishal, his juvenile nephew, two special police officers Deepak Khajuria, alias Dipu, Surender Verma, head constable Tilak Raj, sub-inspector Anand Dutta and a private person Parvesh Kumar, alias Mannu, were arrested in the case.
The Jammu & Kashmir police crime branch had submitted a supplementary chargesheet on July 30 against the seven accused before the trial court in Pathankot in which it was highlighted that the victim was administered a cocktail of sedatives through her captivity to incapacitate her to resist sexual assault and murder. She was also reportedly starved, while in captivity.
Recalling that fateful morning on January 10, Yusuf said Ameena had her morning meal of roti and chana and took the horses, sheep and goats out for grazing as a matter of routine. “She used to take the animals out for grazing every day and return with them by 4 pm. That day when she didn’t come back by 4.30 pm, I started looking for her. She with other children of our dera used to play near a tubewell so I thought she might be there. But there was no one. Then I thought she might have gone to her friend’s house to play with her. I searched everywhere, but didn’t find her. Next morning, I lodged a police complaint at Heeranagar police station. Two constables came to our dera and asked us some questions. They said they would search for her. A week passed by and on January 17, a shepherd, who was grazing his sheep, found Ameena’s body lying in a shrub near a temple in Rasana village. “There were some scratches on her face and the fingers of her right hand were scorched. They may have killed her the previous day because the body had not started decaying and there were no flies. We called the police. They came and took her body for postmortem to Kathua,” Yusuf recalled the details of his foster daughter’s death.
“We had nothing to do with them (Ameena’s killers). We do not mix with them. We have never harmed them. Why did they kill her?” he broke down. Ameena was given to Yusuf by her mother, when she was a few months old after he had lost his 3 children in a road accident in 2010.
“I had begged my sister to give us Ameena, when she was born. We forgot our sorrows when she came into our life. She used to call me Kaku. I could not protect her,” said Yusuf. Ameena was buried in a graveyard in Kana village, which is owned by Bakarwals at 11 pm on a cold January night after the local people reportedly denied the family permission to bury the body in a local graveyard.
In another tenement Ameena’s biological father Mohammed Akhtar and his father Haji Qasam live with the rest of the family comprising Ameena’s mother, two sisters and a brother. “Our life is ruined forever. This is the first time such an ugly incident has taken place in our community. We are vagabonds. We don’t have land or a house. We don’t have money for a lawyer and we wanted the case to be shifted to Delhi but we were told that it would be tried in Pathankot. The killers should be identified and hanged without delay. We want insaaf (justice),” said Qasam.
“I have lost interest in life. Ameena’s face haunts me. I am seeking justice for her. I am not sure whether we can get it. I am ashamed,” cried Akhtar.