Shwetambri Sharma is the only female member of the Special Investigation Team (SIT) of Crime Branch of the Jammu and Kashmir Police that investigated the rape and murder of the eight-year-old Bakerwal girl, Asifa. In an interview given to the Quint, Ms. Sharma has revealed how the right wing Hindu forces along with the police, tried to topple the investigation.
‘The people we believed were involved in the gruesome rape and murder of that 8-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. But we stood our ground firmly till the end,’ she told the Quint.
The government of Jammu and Kashmir had assigned the case to the Crime Branch on 23 January 2018.
Asifa Banu, an 8-year-old Muslim girl was abducted, raped and murdered in Kathua in January. She was drugged and kept captive in a Hindu temple where she was repeatedly raped. Her body was abandoned in the forest after the murder. Widespread protests had erupted in the country after things escalated following the arrest of 8 accused in the case. The charge sheet named Sanji Ram, a 60-year-old retired government officer, and also the Hindu temple priest, as the master planner of the crime.
The motive, as per the charge sheet filed by the police and according to one of the accused is stated to be to drive away the Muslim nomadic tribe of Gujjar-Bakerwals from the land owned by Hindus. Following this right-wing Hindu groups had taken out rallies in support of the accused. Among the arrested are two police officers who tried to derail the case. Hindu lawyers of the court had disrupted the filing of the chargesheet and had called for a bandh (strike and shutdown).
Shwetambari confirmed this in the interview and said that the SIT worked against heavy odds and were disappointed when they found that the men of Hiranagar Police Station had been bribed to hush up the case. The arrested police officers, Surendra Verma, Anand Dutta, Tilak Raj and Deepak Khajuria washed away the young victim’s clothes to destroy material evidences.
The SIT functioned under the supervision of Inspector Generals of Police (IGPs) of Crime, Aloke Puri and Syed Ahfadul Mujtaba, besides Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Crime Branch Jammu Ramesh Kumar Jalla. Headed by Additional Superintendent of Police (SP) Crime Naveed Pirzada, it had Deputy SP Shwetambri, Sub Inspector Irfan Wani, Inspector KK Gupta and Assistant Sub Inspector of Police Tariq Ahmad as its members