KATHUA, Mar 8: Police resorted to lathi-charge and tear -gassing on the protestors to foil their attempts to take out route marches in Chadwal and Kootah areas of Hiranagar tehsil, who were demanding CBI probe into the kidnapping and murder of an eight year old Gujjar girl Asifa whose dead body was found in forests of Rassana village on January 17.
Over 100 protestors were arrested and bundled in police vehicles from different spots of Hiranagar tehsil when they tried to defy the 144CrPC imposed in the tehsil last month by the district administration to maintain peace in the area following the murder of Asifa.
One person was seriously injured while some protestors received minor injuries in the lathicharge.
The shops in the mini towns of Chadwal, Mareen and Kootah, Hiranagar Morh, Ghagwal, Dayala Chak and Jatwal remained closed with businessmen downing the shutters of their shops and other business establishments in support of the call given by Hindu Ekta Manch spearheading the present agitation demanding CBI probe in the murder case.
The trouble started early in the morning when some women protestors on the call of HEM assembled at Chadwal where from peace march was to be taken to Ghagwal. However, the authorities had made a heavy deployment of police and CRPF to foil their bid to violate the CrPC 144.
The announcement was made in police van that Section 144 has been imposed in the area and any body violating the same will be dealt under law. However, the group of women trying to defy the Section 144 and take out a procession, were taken into custody by police.
This was followed by another protest march taken out by members of HEM led by its president advocate Vijay Sharma in which men, women and children participated. Initially police tried to stop the procession but the mob was adamant to march ahead and did not stop resulting in jostling with police. In the melee one protestor Vijay Kumar fell down on road and later he was hit by a Punjab Road Transport bus which was on its way to Jammu. He received critical head injury.
He was shifted by the police to Hiranagar Sub District Hospital where from doctors referred him to GMC Jammu. But later he was referred to CMC Ludhiana in a critical condition.
Seeing that one of the protestor was seriously injured the mob became restive and the protestors shouted slogans against the police and tried to take the route march towards Dayala Chak. When the mob reached Tarnah bridge, the police again resorted to lathicharge in which some people including advocate Vijay Sharma received minor injuries also.
A high drama prevailed at this spot and police also arrested eight persons on this spot Vijay Sharma, Vijay Tagotra, Mohan Lal and Raj Kumar the leaders of HEM while Kant Kumar ex Sarpanch and another ex Sarpanch were arrested by the police earlier on their way to Kootah.
Though order was restored for some time the trouble started again as shopkeepers and other people assembled at Chadwal and protested against police and offered for court arrest in protest against the excesses of police.
Over 100 people offered court arrest and they were taken to Police Station Rajbagh first where from to DPL Kathua.
Panthers Party, president and ex MLA, Balwant Singh Mankotia who was on way to Chadwal along with his supporters was arrested at Dayala Chak and taken to Police Station Hiranagar.
Meanwhile, some protestors assembled at Hiranagar Chowk and blocked the Jammu-Pathankot National Highway. The protestors also torched the effigy of the Government and raised “anti Chief Minister, anti BJP anti PDP slogans.”
They also strongly condemned the action of police and attitude of Government towards the innocent people.
Advocate Vijay Sharma while talking to media men said police resorted to lathicharge and tear gassing on peaceful protestors and provoked them. He reiterated his demand of CBI probe and justice to innocent girl.
DC Kathua Rohit Khajuria and SSP Kathua Suleman Choudhary also visited the area to monitor the situation. Khajuria told reporters that people tried to defy the Section 144 and police has to foil their bid to maintain peace.
Raj Kumari, a woman from Rassana alleged that the innocent people were being harassed by Crime Branch (CB) and they are forced to admit that they are involved in the murder of the girl. Alleging that fair investigation is not being done in the case, she said that no body in the police tried to trace out the two motorcycle borne youth wearing masks on their faces who visited the village on the fateful day when the power was suddenly off and after going to a secluded place returned at a break of 15 minutes and fled. “We narrated the whole thing to police but no body tried to find out and investigate that who these masked men were”, she said.
She said the real culprits are scot free and innocent people are being harassed to create a communal divide in the area.
Later NPP leader and former Minister, Harsh Dev Singh also visited the area and accused the Government for the problem. He said the PDP-BJP Government was responsible for the excesses on innocent people.
The protest demonstration was also held by the activists of various parties and social organisations in Samba in support of Rassana people demanding CBI probe in the murder case.
Later DIG Jammu visited Hiranagar in the evening to ascertain the situation there.
I G Jammu range, S D Singh visited Kathua District Police Line and held talks with HEM president, Vijay Sharma to defuse the situation.
Vijay Sharma informed him that their protest is peaceful and they have launched the agitation within the democratic rights and will take it to logical conclusion. He appealed the IG that police should not harass them unnecessarily.
All the arrested persons were released without any condition late in the evening.
Meanwhile, Crime Branch (CB) is contemplating to register FIR against certain police officials who had initially handled the investigation in eight year old Asifa kidnapping and murder case and are involved in destruction of vital evidence regarding the same.
In this connection the FSL has pointed out certain doubts.
It pointed out that the muddy clothes and rosary (mala) worn by the victim on the day of recovery of dead body of the child have already been photographed and are the part of CD file of police.
The clothes handed over to Crime Branch appeared to have been completely washed to destroy the evidence. That is the reason that CB Jammu is contemplating to register a case against the police officials who had initially investigated the case under Section 201 RPC i.e destruction of evidence.
Sources said that two cops of Hiranagar Police Station including a Sub Inspector and a Havaldar have already been detained by Crime Branch Jammu for questioning and more heads may likely roll in this case as the CB investigation is in progress.
Sources said that the CB has put the cops to sustained questioning to ascertain the facts that under whose behest the evidence was destroyed and what was the motive behind it and whom they were trying to protect in this case.
It may be recalled that CB had already arrested two SPOs of Hiranagar Police Station.