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Officer Who Solved Kathua Mystery Opens Up About Roadblocks They Had To Face

Shwetambri Sharma, the only female member of the SIT reveals

On January 10, an eight-year-old girl was grazing her pet horses wearing a purple dress near her one-room house in Kathua, Jammu and Kashmir. That was when a 19-year-old (reportedly) boy called her into the forest, pretending to help her searching for her horses.

After a few hours, the horse returned home, alone. The girl’s parents registered a missing complaint but the police failed to find her. After an entire week, her battered body was recovered from a forest, only to wake up the country after three long months.

The story made headlines this week when Hindu right-wing groups protested over the arrest of eight Hindu men. Instead of sympathizing with the little victim, the gruesome incident became a topic of religion and politics for many people in the country. When the police could not do anything, the J&K government assigned the case to Special Investigation Team (SIT) of Crime Branch of Jammu and Kashmir on January 23, 2018.

The blood-curdling incident

The young, bright looking girl belonged to a Muslim nomadic tribe and was abducted by a teenager. She was dragged to a devsthan and drugged where three men brutally gang-raped her repeatedly, keeping her sedated and without food. Later, she was strangled and hit twice with a heavy rock and murdered.

Accused Sanji Ram and Deepak Khajuria

The teen, who abducted her, took her to his uncle Sanji Ram, another accused, who was in charge of the temple. Apart from these two, Parvesh Kumar also raped the young girl repeatedly along with Vishal Jangotra, who came all the way from Meerut to Kathua to satisfy his lust. When they were killing the child, the Special Police Officer Deepak Khajuria told them to wait, as he wanted to rape her one more time before killing her.

Another accused was special police officer Surinder Kumar who was present in the crime scene and two more policemen who covered the crime for huge bribe. Sub Inspector Anand Dutta and Head Constable Tilak Raj did not collect evidence and washed the victim’s dress to destroy the evidences.

The heroics of SIT

Shwetambri Sharma, the only female member of the SIT told The Quint, “The people we believed were involved in the gruesome rape and murder of that eight-year-old angel, their relatives and sympathisers, including a multitude of the lawyers, left no stone unturned to disrupt our investigation. They went to the extreme of our humiliation and harassment.”

“I told them that as an officer of the J&K Police, I had no religion and my only religion was my police uniform.”

The SIT functioned under supervision of Inspector Generals of Police of Crime, Aloke Puri and Syed Ahfadul Mujtaba, along with Senior Superintendent of Police Crime Branch Jammu, Ramesh Kumar Jalla. The team was headed by Additional Superintendent of Police Crime Naveed Pirzada, with other team members Deputy SP Shwetambri Sharma, Sub Inspector Irfan Wani, Inspector KK Gupta and Assistant Sub Inspector of Police Tariq Ahmad as its members.

Blackmailing and intimidating the SIT

It is not easy to understand and accept the intensity of pain that the little girl had to bear. Most of the accused were Brahmins and they over emphasised their surnames. “They particularly tried to influence me and communicated through different mean that we belonged to one religion and one caste and I must not hold them guilty of the rape and murder of a Muslim girl,” tells Shwetambri.

The team had to go through many challenges in collecting the evidences. The men of the Hiranagar police station had washed away the victim’s clothes to destroy evidences just for bribe. Shwetambri recalls how the accused men’s families began blackmailing and intimidating them by carrying lathis, shouting slogans, and organising rallies under the tricolour and also blocked their roads to different villages and the court.

“During the hearing of a bail petition, which was subsequently dismissed, we entered the court to make relevant arguments. But, instead of arguing as defence lawyers, a crowd of 10 to 20 lawyers held demonstrations. They insisted we name the accused, knowing well that we were barred.”

Even when there was anarchy and intimidation all around, the team managed to solve the mystery. “I believe there was a divine intervention to bring the culprits to justice. I believe Durga Mata had her hand on our head,” said Shwetambri.

The little girl was her son’s age

It was Shwetambri who entered the devsthan and seized material evidences including the victim’s hair strands in the presence of a magistrate. Being a woman, it shook her when she had to question all the accused men about graphic details of the rape and murder of the child who was her own son’s age.

“Sleep eluded me. I stayed awake for nights. I was not available as my husband’s partner, when he went for family and social commitments. I couldn’t take care of my child properly who had to be prepared for exams,” she says.

However, she feels blessed that she, along with her team, was able to solve the mystery and reveal the dirty faces of the accused. “We have full faith in the judiciary. We are all hopeful that justice will be delivered as our investigation is fool-proof and supported not only by confessions but also by other necessary evidences including technical and scientific ones,” said Shwetambri.

The young girl’s rape and murder has shaken even the coldest of hearts. Today, the entire nation is standing united against the gruesome incident, demanding justice for her. When we, as a nation, are entering into the depths of hell, there are still a few people who, with their blood, sweat, and tears are trying to bring justice to the innocent one.

KenFolios hopes that justice be served to the victim and her family.

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