Srinagar/Jammu, Apr 13 (PTI) Amid strain in the PDP-BJP alliance in Jammu and Kashmir over the rape and killing of an eight-year-old girl in Kathua, two ministers of the saffron party, who courted controversy by attending a rally supporting the accused in the case, today tendered their resignation to the state BJP chief.
In the national capital, Prime Minister Narendra Modi assured the nation that no criminal will be spared and daughters will get justice, in an apparent reference to the two rape cases of Kathua and Unnao.
Following criticism by the Opposition over his silence on the rape cases, Modi, at an event in New Delhi, said such incidents “shake our sensibilities”.
In Jammu and Kashmir, the alliance between Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the BJP had come under strain after many leaders of the Mehbooba Mufti-led party pressed for dropping Industries and Commerce Minister Chander Prakash Ganga and Forest Minister Lal Singh from the Cabinet.
The two BJP ministers, who were at the centre of a storm over their participation in a rally in support of the accused in the Kathua rape and murder case, today submitted their resignations to the party’s state president Sat Sharma.
Sharma told PTI that a legislature party meeting of the BJP that is scheduled to be held tomorrow in Jammu would take a call on their resignations.
The developments came after Mehbooba Mufti spoke with Prime Minister Modi, Home Minister Rajnath Singh, BJP chief Amit Shah and party general secretary Ram Madhav, PDP sources said.
The chief minister apprised them of the situation and requested them for their intervention to defuse the political crisis brewing in the state over the Kathua rape case, they said.
Ganga and Singh had earlier hit out at the police for arresting “one or the other person at will” in connection with the case.
Opposition parties National Conference and the Congress had demanded that Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti should sack the two ministers.
The PDP would also hold a meeting of its MLAs and MPs tomorrow to decide the party’s course of action amid demands to remove the two ministers from the government.
The party today came out with a strong statement blaming the Centre and “hawkish and communal” elements in the BJP for failing the purpose of the alliance between the two parties in the state.
The statement signed by its senior leader Nizamuddin Bhat, a close aide of the chief minister, said, “The conduct of communal and hawkish elements in BJP is giving serious blow to PDP’s expectations on Kashmir and New Delhi’s own attitudes are failing the purpose of alliance between the two parties.” Bhat endorsed the sentiments of Tourism Minister Tasaduq Mufti, who had said that the PDP had become a “partner in crime with the BJP and the gradual schism of state’s residents may lead to unprecedented bloodshed.” Bhat said Tasaduq Mufti has represented the sentiment of the party’s rank and file.
“It (PDP) expected that state will witness a sustainable political atmosphere of harmony and shared concerns. Unfortunately, that is seemingly not happening. On the contrary, uncertainty is gripping the state. Conflict is devouring lives and resource,” he said.
Bhat said Mehbooba Mufti was pained at every killing in Kashmir.
“Unfortunately her every hope is belied through perpetual betrayals and the state reels under the shadow of death and destruction,” he said.
The girl, who belonged to the nomadic Bakerwal Muslim community, had disappeared from a spot near her house in Kathua on January 10. A week later, her body was found in the same area.
A Special Investigation Team of Crime Branch, formed to probe the incident, has arrested eight people, including two special police officers (SPOs) and a head constable and a Sub-inspector, who were charged with destroying evidence.
Jammu has been on tenterhooks since the brutal rape and murder, with a group Hindu Ekta Manch siding with the accused and lawyers obstructing the submission of charge sheet in the court.
State Deputy Chief Minister and senior BJP leader Nirmal Singh has defended the investigation by the crime branch into the rape and killing of the girl, saying it was a court-monitored probe.
Asserting that the culprits in the case must be punished, he said if someone is not satisfied with the probe, he can move court and put forth his point.
As the outrage over the Kathua rape case continued, the Supreme Court today stepped in to warn the lawyers in Jammu that they cannot obstruct the process of law, while the Delhi High Court restrained the media from revealing the identity of the victim by any means.
The top court took umbrage against the lawyers body of Kathua and Jammu for obstructing the way of the counsel of the victim’s family in the trial court, saying that advocates’ bodies have a solemn duty to not obstruct members of legal fraternity representing the parties.
In a related development, Jammu and Kashmir Police chief S P Vaid today asserted that all necessary steps will be taken to provide protection to the family members of the eight-year-old girl, who was raped and killed in Kathua, and the witnesses in the case.
He also defended the Jammu and Kashmir Police’s Crime Branch, which has come under fire from lawyers, and said it had done a commendable job in investigating the rape and killing of the girl.
“Crime Branch has done a commendable job in investigating unfortunate rape and murder case of minor girl. They are very competent,” Vaid told reporters.
This is published unedited from the PTI feed.