‘One strand of hair’ proves key to probe

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Srinagar, April 17: A police source has claimed the discovery of strands of the Kathua gang-rape-and-murder victim’s hair inside the village prayer hall where the Crime Branch says she was held captive for days and repeatedly raped and tortured.
The families of the 8 accused and the Hindu Ekta Manch, a group championing their cause, have dismissed the possibility that anyone could be held hostage and brutalised inside a “temple”.
“We recovered several strands of hair inside the devasthan (prayer hall) in the presence of a magistrate,” a senior Crime Branch officer told The Telegraph.
“None of them had a root (which is rich in genetic material, unlike the shaft) expect one. We sent it to a forensic laboratory in Delhi and it was established that it was the victim’s. It proves the girl was held there.”
He added: “We have a lot of oral evidence, which includes confessions by the accused, but this is a piece of scientific evidence we needed.”
Manch members have accused the police of bias and are continuing with their demand for a CBI probe.
“It’s impossible to hold someone captive and rape her for 8 days in a temple which is always crowded and is situated in the middle of a street,” says a widely circulated social media post, headlined: “Why lawyers in Kathua are demanding a CBI probe”.
Prem Dogra, chief of the BJP’s Kathua chief, endorsed the logic. “How is it possible that nobody saw them there?” he asked.
According to the charge-sheet, the girl was starved and sedated for 5 days under a table and wrapped in a mat inside the devasthan. Sanjhi Ram, the alleged mastermind, is the temple’s caretaker.
“Ram alone had the keys, and not several people, as they claim,” the officer said.
“There’s a difference between a temple and a devasthan, the later being a prayer hall built in memory of a sage by a family or a clan. It’s opened for prayers only on a few occasions, and only they (the accused) entered it during the days she was held there.”
He added: “Besides, it is located at an isolated place, away from habitations.”
The girl was abducted on January 10 and her body was found a week later. The local police investigated the matter before the Crime Branch took over.
Ram, the investigators say, paid a bribe of Rs 4 lakh to the policemen involved in the initial investigation to hush matters up and destroy crucial evidence, for instance, by washing the girl’s clothes. These cops are among the 8 accused.
Initial investigations suggested that a purported minor, the first to be detained, had held the girl captive inside a cowshed. But the Crime Branch later said she had been detained at the devasthan.
‘Truth’ test sought
As the trial began on Monday, 7 of the accused pleaded not guilty before District and Sessions Judge Sanjay Gupta in Kathua and volunteered for a narco-analysis (truth serum) test, PTI reported. The next hearing is on April 28.
The 8th accused, the juvenile, moved a bail application before the Chief Judicial Magistrate, who posted the matter for April 26.
In a narco-analysis test, the subject is injected with sodium pentothal or sodium amytal, the dose depending on the person’s sex, age, health and physical condition.
Such a test is not admissible as evidence unless a Court has given permission to conduct it. The test helps as corroborative and not primary evidence, legal experts say.
As the trial began, Ram’s daughter Madhu Sharma protested outside, demanding a CBI probe. (Agencies)