Protests against Kathua and Unnao rape
People participate in a candlelight vigil as they protest against the rape of an eight-year-old girl in Kathua near Jammu, and a teenager in Unnao, Uttar Pradesh state, in Bengaluru, India, April 13, 2018Reuters

The brutal gang rape and murder of an eight-year-old girl in Kathua, Jammu and Kashmir, has brought the people of the nation together in protest cutting across all religions, castes and creed. Hundreds of people have taken to the streets to demand justice for the little girl, and the scenes remind one of the massive protests that took place when 23-year-old Delhi woman Jyoti Singh Pandey was brutalized in 2012. She was widely referred as 'Nirbhaya' meaning fearless.

Like in the Nirbhaya case, the youngest accused, who is said to be the main culprit, was probably the most savage and barbaric one. As per the investigators, the boy was the "main executioner" of the crime and is also the one who strangulated the girl and hit her head with a stone twice, killing her.

The boy had earlier claimed to be 15 years old, but the charge sheet states he could be about 19.

At times, it is hard to believe that a teen could be capable of such brutality, but that is evidently the shocking truth. Hindustan Times spoke to the boy's family members and it turns out his family too believes he was a "problem child."

The boy, in the past, is known to have picked arguments and fights with the Gujjars and Bakarwals, and had developed a hatred for this nomadic tribe. "Around three months before he was picked up by the police (for the Kathua rape-murder)... my son and his friends were involved in a fight with some Gujjars (nomadic grazers)," his mother told HT.

"The boys were 'eating and drinking' near their homes when they were beaten up by the Gujjars. They then lodged a police complaint against him."

His mother said that she herself had taken the boy to the police as she wanted him to change his ways. "I wanted my son to be reprimanded and disciplined. The police were impressed with the role of a mother," she added. However, the boy is said to have thrashed even his mother for her decision.

If that wasn't enough, his academic records look less like education documents and more like a rap sheet. He was expelled from school after Diwali in 2017 and the police have said that it was for his "unruly behavior with school girls."

The charge sheet also mentions that he had sexually harassed the eight-year-old girl even before he raped and murdered her. He had reportedly seen her grazing the cattle and would touch her inappropriately on the pretext of cleaning her up.

While the world now sees the accused as a savage rapist, his family proves the age-old proverb: "Blood is thicker than water." His mother believes that no matter how troublesome her son is, he couldn't have committed the crime. She had earlier accused the school of targeting him and now she is on a fast-unto-death as she seeks a CBI probe into her son's arrest.

Similarly, the boy's cousin believes that he was even afraid of the dark and there was no way he could take someone's life. "He smokes and drinks, something most teenagers in towns do nowadays. He was naughty, but wouldn't rape and kill someone. He was afraid of the dark and wouldn't even venture out to lock the house gate at night."

Kathua rape
participate in a candle light vigil as they protest against the rape of an eight-year-old girl in Kathua near JammuReuters

Echoing the cousin's thoughts, the rape accused's aunt added: "He had offered a glass of water to the police team, but they arrested him. He was so calm in police presence, he wouldn't have committed the crime."

The investigation into the case is underway and the police believe that he is the "main executioner" of the gory crime. While he may have been a "lean and thin boy afraid of the dark," it looks like he wasn't afraid to brutalize an innocent eight-year-old.

He wasn't afraid to abduct the girl and sedate her. He wasn't afraid to take her to a temple, lock her up, and repeatedly rape her for about a week, even moments before he killed her. He wasn't afraid to strangulate her and hit her head with a stone twice. And clearly he wasn't afraid when he dumped the little one's body in the jungle.

Until now, five people — Sanji Ram, the 60-year-old retired revenue official, who hatched the plan, the 19-year-old who is his nephew, the boy's friend Parvesh Kumar, Ram's son Vishal Jangotra, and special police officers Deepak Khajuria and Surinder Kumar — have been named in the case. Ram, the 19-year-old boy, Parvesh, and Jangotra have now reportedly been arrested.