Kathua rape trial begins: father seeks venue shift, lawyer fears for life

The trials in the horrifying Kathua rape and murder case began today against the eight accused, including a juvenile against whom a separate charge sheet was filed. As mandated under law, Kathua's chief judicial magistrate committed one of the charge sheets, which names seven people, to the Sessions Court for trial. However, the chief judicial magistrate will hold the juvenile's trial as it is the designated court under the juvenile act.
The trial, which began in Jammu and Kashmir today, will see its next hearing on 28 April. The case involves eight people holding an eight-year-old girl captive in a small village temple in the state's Kathua district for a week in January this year, sexually assaulting her, and then murdering her.
The accused were ready to undergo narco tests, said their counsel.
Meanwhile, the Supreme Court will this afternoon hear the plea of the father of the rape victim to transfer the trial to Chandigarh. This morning, the girl's father requested the Supreme Court to shift the trial to Chandigarh, citing a backlash and security fears for his family.
The trials began a day after protests were staged in various parts of the country by citizens outraged by the heinous crime. The accused include four police officers and a retired government official.
The lawyer representing the family of the eight-year-old raped and killed in Jammu and Kashmir's Kathua has said she will go to the Supreme Court to request protection as there is a threat to her life. Deepika S Rajawat says she fears she can be "raped or killed".
"I don't know how long I will be alive. I can be raped ... I can be killed, I can be damaged. I was threatened yesterday that 'we will not forgive you'. I am going to tell the Supreme Court tomorrow that I am in danger," Rajawat said on Sunday.
"We don't think there is conducive atmosphere in Kathua for the trial," said Rajawat.
The Jammu Bar association and the Kathua Bar received a rap on the knuckles from the Supreme Court on 13 April, as the apex court took a strong note of certain lawyers obstructing the judicial process in the case. The Kathua trial is now expected to be conducted smoothly.
The charge sheets filed by the Jammu and Kashmir Police's crime branch state that the abduction, rape, and killing of the minor Bakerwal girl was part of a carefully planned strategy aimed at forcing the minority nomadic community out of the area.
The Jammu and Kashmir government has appointed two special public prosecutors, both Sikhs. The case has deeply polarised the region as the accused men are all Hindu and the child was Muslim.
Meanwhile, as the Kathua trial is set to begin, a group of former civil servants on Sunday issued a strongly worded open letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, holding him responsible "more than anyone else" for the "terrifying state of affairs" in the country. The letter asked Modi to check India's "free fall into anarchy" by taking tough action against the alleged perpetrators of the Kathua and Unnao rape cases and the perpetrators of other hate crimes across the country.
Two Bharatiya Janata Party ministers in the state government — Chandra Prakash Ganga and Lal Singh 0151 have resigned following accusations of attending a rally in support of the alleged culprits of the crime.
The girl's body was found on 17 January. After the accused were arrested, a group called the Hindu Ekta Manch took out protests in which two BJP ministers and a lawyers' body linked to the Congress participated. 
The case gained national attention after a police chargesheet revealed that the girl was kept in a local temple, gang-raped repeatedly, and kept sedated and without food before being strangled. Her head was also bashed in with a large rock. Just before she was killed, one of the accused, a police officer, insisted on raping her one last time.
A group of lawyers had tried to prevent the police from submitting the charge-sheet.