Minister of State for External Affairs VK Singh on Thursday became the first Union Minister from the Modi government to condemn in public the alleged gang-rape of an 8-year-old girl in Kathua and those defending the rapists in the name of religion.

The former Army chief issued a statement on his official social media handles – Twitter and Facebook – in which he chastised the ‘rape apologists’ for defending the accused.

“There needs to be a difference between humans and animals and there is. However, what happened to an 8-year-old child in Kathua proves that being called a human is an abuse. Animals are better,” wrote Singh.

He said that though there is hardly anyone who is not moved by the heinousness of this heart-wrenching inhuman act, he would like to keep my emotions in check and demanded punishment for the guilty.

“I want that the criminals be punished in such a way that it sets an example for generations to come,” said the former Army chief.

Addressing those who played the ‘Hindu’ card to defend the accused, Singh warned, “Those who are trying to defend the criminals using religion as a shield should note that they will be treated like criminals too.”

“Their support proves that they too are capable of committing such a heinous act. Chose whose representative you want to be,” he added.

Telling defenders of the rapists not to “slander your religion and nation in such a way that we become a party to it without even wanting to”, Singh urged them to think of the family which lost their 8-year-old to this barbarity.

“At least I would want that the law should take its course and the guilty should be punished,” said the Union Minister.

VK Singh post on kathua
(Photo: Facebook/@generalvksingh)

Lawyers and ministers from the BJP in Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti’s cabinet had tried to defend the accused in the case.

An FIR was registered on Tuesday against lawyers who tried to block the presentation of a charge sheet in a court in Jammu-Kashmir in the rape and murder of the minor girl.

The Jammu Bar Association, on the other hand, alleged that minority Dogras of Jammu and Kashmir in Hiranagar were being “targeted” in the probe by the crime branch.

Industries and Commerce Minister Chander Parkash Ganga and Forest Minister Lal Singh had accused the police for arresting “one or the other person at will”.

“We too want that the real accused are punished. We have heard you. We will not allow this jungle raj, under which they (police) are picking up people at will, to continue. What kind of investigation are they doing?” Forest Minister Lal Singh said questioning why the probe was not being handed over to the CBI.

Prominent personalities had on Thursday expressed their anger at the gang-rape and the manner in which a section of the society was defending the accused. Celebrities and sportspersons including Richa Chadha, Farhan Akhtar and Sania Mirza were among those who vehemently criticised the alleged perpetrators of the horrific crime and those defending them.

Read More: Twitterati condemn crime, supporters of alleged rapists

In its charge sheet, the J-K Police describes in detail the manner in which six men allegedly raped the 8-year-old girl after abducting her on 10 January.

The police have charged Sanji Ram, the caretaker of a small temple in Rassana village in Kathua, as the main conspirator behind the abduction, rape and killing. Other accused in the case are two special police officers, Deepak Khajuria and Surender Verma, friend Parvesh Kumar alias Mannu, Ram’s nephew, who is a juvenile, and his son Vishal Jangotra alias Shamma.

The men held the girl in captivity in a small village temple in Kathua district for a week. She was kept sedated and sexually assaulted once again before she was bludgeoned to death, reveals the charge sheet in the case.

The girl was from the Bakherwal community – a minority nomadic community who are traditionally shepherds.

The 15-page charge sheet says that the alleged rapists had planned the crime to put fear in the minority nomadic community and force them out of the area.

The charge sheet also names investigating officers, head constable Tilak Raj and sub-inspector Anand Dutta, who allegedly took Rs 4 lakh from Ram and destroyed crucial evidence.

All the eight accused have been arrest.