Kathua rape-murder case: Former minister, who supported accused, to join ‘Bharat Jodo Yatra’

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Jammu: Former Member of Parliament (MP) Chowdhary Lal Singh is set to join the Congress’s ‘Bharat Jodo Yatra’ in Jammu and Kashmir, creating a stir within the national party.

Singh, who heads ‘Dogra Swabhiman Sangathan Party’ after being ousted from the BJP in 2018, on Sunday said that he would be joining the Bharat Jodo Yatra, led by Rahul Gandhi, at Gateway of J-K, Lakhanpur. 

Singh became a center of controversy after he publicly supported the accused in the infamous Kathua rape-murder case of an 8-year-old girl from a tribal community in 2018.

In a statement, Singh said he has got an invitation to join the Yatra and his conscience forces him to join the rally to fight against the government to “get justice for common man”.

“If someone is uniting the Bharat, then there is no harm in supporting him. We need to unite anyway for our rights,” Singh said, after attending a meeting with workers at his residence to chalk out the plan of joining the Bharat Jodo Yatra.

However, leaders within the Congress party are unsettled with Singh’s inclusion in the Yatra, citing his open support to the accused involved in the Kathua rape-murder case.

In January 2018, an 8-year-old Muslim girl was raped and killed by seven men in the Rasana village, near Kathua in J-K. The attack jolted the country with several rallies organised in support of the victim.

Singh was a prominent figure in the ‘Hindu Ekta Manch’ rally, which was organised in support of those arrested in connection with the rape and murder case. Defending his decision to stand with the rape accused, Singh had said that it was a “conspiracy” to defame Jammu’s Dogra community.

Speaking with The Kashmir Walla, Congress J-K spokesperson Deepika Pushkar Nath said people like Singh would “malign” the image of the Bharat Jodo Yatra. Nath, a lawyer by profession, also represented the victim’s family during the trial of the case.

“This Yatra is an ideological war against hatred. It is a thought. If Rahul ji walks alone with the thought of going against the hatred and division, the Yatra is successful,” she said. “There is no need for support from a person who has the background of creating division, polarising the state in 2018.”

“This person (Singh) tried to play the politics on 8-year-old child rape and murder case. Apart from political ideology, how can one stoop so low to play politics on the rape of a child,” she said.

Ghulam Ahmad Mir, the Bharat Jodo Yatra co-ordinator in J-K and former JKPCC president, told The Kashmir Walla that Congress has not sent any written invitation to any political party, and whosoever is joining the Yatra is doing it “voluntarily”.

“As of now there has been no official invitation sent to any political party or leaders,” Mir said. He added that Singh joining the Yatra shouldn’t be seen from an individual perspective, “moreover, whatever his stand on the Kathua rape case was during his tenure in the BJP”.

“Today, [Singh] has a separate political identity. Whatever mistake he made was during his time in the BJP. And we all know what BJP ideology is all about,” Mir said. “Three months back, I met him on Pandit Mangat Ram ji’s death anniversary when I asked him if he believes in united India, then he should join the Yatra.”

He told The Kashmir Walla Singh has several “good friends in the Congress” and it might be possible that someone might have invited him unofficially to the Yatra.

J-K Congress in-charge Rajni Patel told The Kashmir Walla that she is not aware of Singh’s joining the Yatra and would verify the facts before commenting any further on the issue.

However, Patel added that if any Congress members in J-K are against Singh’s joining, they should raise the issue with the party’s high command to express their reservations.

“The larger goal is to make Rahul ji’s Yatra successful. A man is walking thousands of kilometers to unite India, and we all should join and appreciate his (Rahul’s) sincere efforts,” she said, adding that everyone is invited to join the Yatra, who believes in secular India.

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