Main Accused in Kathua Rape-Murder Case Not A Juvenile, Doctors Say

The 8-year-old, who belonged to a nomadic tribe of Jammu and Kashmir, was kidnapped on January 10 and held captive for a week before she was murdered. The body was dumped in a forest area of Kathua and was recovered on January 17.

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Main Accused in Kathua Rape-Murder Case Not A Juvenile, Doctors Say

Hindu Ekta Manch protest against Crime Branch probe in the Kathua rape and murder case.

Srinagar:  The key accused in the rape and murder of the 8-year-old girl in Jammu and Kashmir's Kathua, considered a juvenile, is more than 19 years old, a medical board formed to determine his age has concluded. The state Crime Branch, which is probing the case, has named an influential former bureaucrat as the mastermind, but is yet to arrest him. The family of the girl has alleged that the police are succumbing to political pressure.

The child, who belonged to a nomadic tribe, was kidnapped on January 10 and held captive for a week before she was murdered. The body was dumped in a forest area and was recovered on January 17.

The police said the accused, who was initially thought to be 15 years old, has confessed to the crime. But after the investigators received contradictory documents about his date of birth, the medical board was set up on the orders of the Jammu and Kashmir High Court.

The report, a copy of which is with NDTV, said physical, dental and radiological examinations have pegged the age of the accused above 19 years.

According to officials of the Crime Branch, a retired revenue officer -- 60-year-old Sanji Ram - engineered the rape and murder of the child to drive out Muslim nomad families from Jammu's Rasana village. He had allegedly "motivated" Deepak Khajuria, a Special Police Officer and the 19-year-old main accused in the case.

Four policemen arrested in the case include two Special Police Officers. Two others - one of them a sub-Inspector - are accused of destroying evidence. The investigators say they had washed the blood-soaked clothes of child before sending the evidence to forensic laboratory.

The investigation by the state police has met with stiff resistance from the Hindu Ekta Manch and the state's BJP ministers have demanded that the case be handed over to the Central Bureau of Investigation.

The nomad families allege the Crime Branch has given in to protests and political pressure and deliberately avoided the arrest of Mr Ram. "Why has the Crime Branch not arrested Sanji Ram when they say he's the mastermind? All the protests are taking place to shield him. This shows the direction where the probe is headed," said Talib Hussain, a nomad activist.

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