As Hindus know, the harvest festival of Sankranti—known by various names across Bharat — is celebrated on the 13th and/or the 14th of January each year. So while thinking about the tragic events related to the Kanjak* of Kathua, I was wondering what is in the chargesheet for these dates.
What does the chargesheet say happened on the 13th?
Here is the relevant portion of the chargesheet, describing the alleged events in the period 13th to 15th January 2018. The portion readers should focus on is that these horrible rapes were supposed to be done inside the Deva-mandir during this time, and the Kanjak was confined to the mandir during this time.
During the course of investigation it has been found that at about 8:30 a.m. on 13th January 2018 JCL, accused Vishal Jangotra @ Shamma and accused Sanji Ram left for Devisthan, where JCL and Sanji Ram performed rituals. In the meantime, accused Mannu also reached Devisthan.
<removed details, very graphic and tragic; fast forwarding to 15th; as per chargesheet, during this whole time the Kanjak was in the mandir>
Thereafter, all the accused left for their homes. The investigation conducted further revealed that on 15th January 2018 accused Sanji Ram told JCL and his son accused Vishal Jangotra @ Shamma that Kishore had refused to bring the car hence they cannot throw the dead body in the Cannal and accordingly directed them to throw the dead body in the jungle as it was not safe to keep it inside Devisthan anymore as the people were likely to visit Devisthan on the following day for Fanda which was to be performed by accused Sanji Ram himself.
However, when I started looking into these dates more closely, the allegations above start to seem implausible. For the simple reason that January 13th was Lohri—one of the most popular Punjabi festivals of the year. Remember the region of Jammu where these events happened is also Punjabi speaking (the mother tongues of all the accused is Punjabi), and Jammu is indeed a major center for Lohri celebrations.
Furthermore, the next day, 14th January is Maghi—another festival heralding the onset of the month of Magh, and the Lohri-Maghi days are full of festivities in Punjab and Jammu. The readers can get a good idea of the kind of joy and festivities in these regions from this article here:
(notice the the captions to one of the pictures says that it is from Jammu).
The Swarajya report
I had already written on this point, when Swarajya Magazine came out with an (excellent) article on Kathua, with extensive ground reporting from the village of Rassana. Here is the link:
There, the question of what transpired on Lohri day at the mandir is addressed. I am reproducing that portion for the readers. First, let us get a picture of the exact location inside the mandir that the Kanjak was supposedly located on Lohri day. It is the table circled in yellow.
Crowd at mandir on Lohri?
Now, the article actually interviews a villager who says that on Lohri day, they had gathered at the mandir to sing devotional songs. Here is the portion:
“It was Lohri. We all went to Devasthan. Food was distributed. We picked up darees from the table and placed them on the floor to sit and sing devotional songs. There is no chance a girl is kept under the table and no one sees it,” said Bishan Das, a 76-year-old Rassana resident who retired as subedar from the Army.
A picture of Sri Bishan Das is also provided in the Swarajya article.
Now, my question is this: are there other villagers who corroborate Sri Bishan Das’s testimony? How many? If there are a large number, then it would seem certain that the Kanjak could not have been in the mandir on that day (the 13th of January). That does not immediately mean the chargesheet is completely false. A chargesheet is not a 100% accurate description of events. Maybe they have this aspect incorrect. But in the least this aspect deserves more detailed investigation.
A less direct argument is as follows: Will Sanji Ram—who is one of the caretakers and pujaris of the mandir—keep a victim and do these rapes on these days when the mandir is most likely to have larger-than-normal crowds? On Lohri day, will any sane person of a Punjabi speaking area keep a victim and rape her in a mandir?
Again, I really don’t know enough to say Yes or No for sure. Maybe if there was a location near the mandir then Sanji Ram might have thought “OK, I can keep the girl there and the crowds will not hear.” But the presence of such a location and its sound/visibility/distance properties relative to the mandir need to be investigated. The chargesheet does not delve deeply into this aspect, and I thought it a very important aspect of the case, hence writing this article.
*Note: Kanjak means little Goddess, and refers to the period of Navaratri when little girls (pre-puberty) are worshipped by many Hindus (including myself) as representations of the divine mother. To me, the little girl was a Kanjak. Hence I refer to her lovingly and respectfully as Kanjak of Kathua.
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