Srinagar, June 10 (IANS) The verdict of a Special Court in Pathankot on the rape and murder of a eight-year-old girl last year in Kathua convicting six of the seven accused on Monday was received with relief and satisfaction in the Kashmir Valley.
The widely reported heinous crime against a minor girl of the nomadic 'Bakarwal' (Goatherd) community in Rasana village of Hiranagar area had resulted in a public outrage against the perpetrators.
The minor was abducted on January 10 and her mutilated body was found in the bushes of the Rasana village on January 17.
According to the charge sheet, the girl was kidnapped and held captive at a village temple in Kathua district on January 10 last year.
The 15-page charge sheet against the accused alsosaid that the eight-year-old was raped in captivity in a small village temple in Kathua district after having been sedated for four days before she was bludgeoned to death.
She was drugged, starved and repeatedly raped for days. She was finally strangled and her head was bashed in with a rock. Her mutilated body was found in a forest area on January 17. Three days later, one of the accused -- reportedly a juvenile -- was arrested by police, the charge sheet said.
An ugly dimension was added to the demand for exemplary punishment for the guilty when two BJP leaders, Choudhary Lal Singh and Chandar Prakash Ganga, who were ministers at that time in the ruling PDP-BJP coalition, stood up in support of the accused trying to polarise the Hindu dominated Jammu region and the Muslim dominated Valley.
Subsequently, these two BJP ministers were dropped from the Council of Ministers headed by the then Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti.
It was because of the sentiments stoked by supporters of the accused that the prosecution was prevented from presenting the charge sheet against the accused in the Kathua court.
The Supreme Court then ordered that the trial of the case be shifted to Pathankot and directed the trial court to hear the case in camera on a daily basis.
Former Chief Ministers Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti received the judgment with relief and as vindication of the country's judicial system.
"Amen to that. The guilty deserve the most severe punishment possible under law. And to those politicians who defended the accused, vilified the victim and threatened the legal system no words of condemnation are enough," Abdullah tweeted.
Mufti too welcomed the judgement. "High time we stop playing politics over a heinous crime where an 8-year-old child was drugged, raped repeatedly and then bludgeoned to death.
"Hope loopholes in our judicial system are not exploited and culprits get exemplary punishment."
Senior separatist leader, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq also welcomed the judgement. He tweeted: "Welcome the court verdict on the Kathua gang rape-murder case. I hope that exemplary punishment is given to the culprits."
People in Kashmir said that it was ultimately the truth that has prevailed and the judgement by the trial court has proved that nobody is above the law.
"If anybody had any misgivings about the delivery of justice in this case, those misgivings have been set to rest finally," said Suhail Mir, a local lawyer.
Mehrajuddin, a fruit seller in Srinagar said: "The people who can even think of such a heinous crime have no religion. Justice has finally been delivered to the innocent victim in this case".
Others felt that exemplary punishment to perpetrators of such crimes would go a long way in preventing their recurrence.
"Making an example of the guilty will ensure that our daughters are safe to whatever region or religion they belong to," said Bashir Ahmad, a retired bank employee.