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Fear, melancholy in Kathua girl’s village

‘Bakerwal dog can protect us from wild animals, but not savages’
UMER MAQBOOL / YOGESH SAGOTRA
Kootah (Hira Nagar, Kathua) | Posted : Apr 17 2018 1:22AM | Updated: Apr 16 2018 11:52PM
Fear, melancholy in Kathua girl’s village
Kathua child''s worn-out football lying in the courtyard of her home in Kootah. Photo: Mir Imran/GK

The locked home of the child who was raped and murdered in Kathua earlier this year is a haunting site without a sign of life.  

A worn-out football lay in the silent courtyard of her father, Muhammad YusoufPujwal’s house here. The 8-year-old girl who played with this football is resting in her grave a few kilometers away from Kootah, after locals denied her burial in her family graveyard in the village. 

An amulet, put up perhaps for the safety of the house, is hanging from the lock on main door of the three-room concrete structure where the nomad herdsman family lives during winters.

Lying in the courtyard is also a handwritten invitation card sent to Pujwal by AkhreyLewal of neighbouringPatta village for his son Liyaqat Ali’s wedding.

Pujwal was expected to attend the wedding on January 14 and 15 when he must have been running around worried sick, looking for his missing daughter. 

No one could be seen around Pujwal’s house in the village where a few Bakerwal families also live amid hundreds of Hindu families. The nearest neighbouringBakerwal family, that of Mohammad Jan, a relative of Pujwal lives 1.5 kilometres away. 

Jan’s house is guarded by a dog who barks at the sight of a stranger coming close to it. 

One has to request the inhabitants to tie the dog up before going inside the subdued house. 

“My sons have already left the village. They left early this year because we feared that they will be implicated in fake cases. We are being treated here as worse than animals,” says Jan, whose family settled in this village 40 years ago.

Jan is unable to comprehend why the child from his clan was so brutally treated and murdered. They have been living in extreme fear since January when the child was done away with. 

“We are just seven families of Bakerwals here. How can we be a threat to thousands of people living here?” Jan exclaims, sitting on charpoy among his grandchildren.

“They are raising slogans against us and telling us that ‘we will throw you out’ from here. We feel very insecure here. The local Sarpanch is at the forefront of the protests against us,” Jan said. 

“This dog can protect us from wild animals but who will protect us from the savages who did not spare even a child,” Jan said pointing towards the canine guarding his home. 

Jan has no idea about the widespread outrage generated over the horrific incident, but he is worried about his safety. 

“What is crime branch? What is CPI (CBI)?” he says apparently referring to the demand of Hindu EktaManch, an outfit formed by a local BJP leader demanding the case be taken away from the state police Crime Branch and handed over to the Central Bureau of Investigation.

From the 7-year-old Saiful to the 35-year-old Sheen, Jan’s family remembers the murdered child with fondness wrapped in sorrow.

“She used to visit our house whenever she had some work,” says Sheena.

Saifull says he used to play with the girl whenever she brought horses to the nearby pond for drinking water.

“She has not come to the pond for a long time, she has been killed,” the 7-year-old said.