Amid shame and mounting pressure, two ministers from Bharatiya Janata Party, who had rallied in support of the accused in the gruesome rape and murder of a Bakerwal child in Kathua, offered their resignation on Friday.
“They have submitted their resignations to state BJP president,” Ashok Kaul, the party state general secretary told.
“Tomorrow (Saturday) is important party legislator party meeting and their fate will be decided there only.”
The resignations are likely to be forwarded to the state’s Governor as early as Saturday.
Chowdhary Lal Singh and Chander Prakash Ganga, ministers of Forest and Industries and Commerce respectively in the Jammu and Kashmir government, had participated in a rally organised by Hindu Ekta Manch – an outfit opposed to arrest of the accused in the Kathua case – causing outrage among the people and politicians of other parties.
Before offering resignation the two ministers said they would ask chief minister Mehbooba Mufti to hand the case over to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).
An eight-year-old girl of the Bakerwal community was kidnapped, held captive, raped and subsequently murdered after she disappeared on January 10, when she has left her home to graze horses. Her body was recovered a week later in some bushes, not far from her home in Rasana village of Kathua district.
Police later arrested eight accused in the case and filed two charge-sheets against them which include a juvenile.
The gruesome details of the crime against the child caused widespread outrage as the BJP ministers were clearly siding with the accused in the case.
On Thursday morning the party high command asked the ministers to submit their resignation, top sources in BJP said.
“Ganga was in some official function in Kathua when he was informed about the directive.
“It was shocking for both the ministers.”
The decision appears to have been taken for damage control as the party received sharp criticism for the shameful stance of its state ministers over the crime.
“Negative things were coming in media and step has been taken to save the party,” Sunil Sethi, the BJP state unit chief spokesman told Greater Kashmir.
“Party is not favouring the accused,” he said.
The two BJP ministers had assured the Manch leaders of their support and opposed what they called was a “jungle raj” making random arrests.
But following widespread shaming of the ministers they now appear to be making an about turn.
Earlier on Thursday Ganga said that the culprits involved in the rape and murder of the child should be hanged.
Following initial arrests in the case, a group of villagers formed the Hindu Ekta Manch and took out a procession waving the tricolour which drew a strong reaction from the chief minister.
At the Manch protest the two ministers were accompanied by BJP legislators, Rajeev Jasrotia and Kuldip Raj, representing Kathua and Hiranagar constituencies, besides other district level leaders the Hindu outfit.
“Appalled by the marches & protests in defense of the recently apprehended rapist in Kathua. Also horrified by their use of our national flag in these demonstrations, this is nothing short of desecration. The accused has been arrested & the law will follow its course,” Mehbooba Mufti tweeted after the procession in Kathua.
“I never asked for the CBI probe in the Asifa’s rape and murder case. I am satisfied with the investigations of government. The culprits should be hanged,” Ganga told reporters.
He however said that those who are not satisfied with the investigation can go to the CBI, High Court, Supreme Court.
“I am not against it,” he maintained.
The minister also claimed he only went to the area to defuse the tension.
“It was people there who demanded the CBI probe in the incident. I assured them that the culprits will be punished.”