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2016-04-15 05:36:37

Kashmiri molestation victim: Girl’s ‘detention’ raises questions

The government Thursday said the minor girl of Handwara, the victim of alleged sexual assault, was in the protective custody of Police along with her father but a rights group denied the government version saying they were being detained.

Talking to Rising Kashmir, Deputy Commissioner Kupwara, Raju Ranjan said they had sought police protection and were in the protective custody of police.

The molestation attempt of the minor girl allegedly by an Army man had evoked massive protest demonstrations in north Kashmir’s Handwara area, which Army and Police dealt with by firing at the protestors resulting in the killing of two youth Nayeem Qadir Bhat and Muhammad Iqbal on Tuesday. Raja Begum, who was also injured in the firing died on Wednesday while another youth Jehangir Ahmad Wani was killed when troops and police opened fire at protestors in Kupwara on Wednesday.

DIG North Kashmir Range, Uttam Chand told Rising Kashmir, “Yes, the girl and her father are in our protective custody after they sought protection from Jammu Kashmir Police.”

However, prominent rights group of Kashmir, Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society said the girl and her father were not in protective custody but were being detained deliberately so that she does not change her statement.

Following the killings, a video statement of the minor girl in Police custody was released in which she accused some youth of following her and assaulting her and denied reports of her molestation.

Talking to Rising Kashmir, JKCCS Programme Coordinator and noted human rights defender, Khurram Parvez said Police and Army had put the life of the girl in danger by releasing her video statement without the consent of her parents.

“The minor girl mother has not yet met her daughter and she does not know what really happened,” he said. “The video statement of the minor girl is illegal as it was taken in absence of her guardians and without their approval.”

Blaming Police and Army for putting her life in danger, Parvez said if they had been concerned about her custody, they could have taken her to her family and given her protection there instead of detaining her in a police station.

“The DIG is lying through his teeth when he says the family sought police custody,” he said.

Parvez said the girl is accompanied by her maternal aunt in the police station and whenever anyone from the family calls them, the Munshi of the Police Station takes their calls and does not allow them to talk to the family privately.

“Why is the minor girl in police station? Is she a criminal? Why is she being prevented from talking to her counsel?” he said. “Everyone from top including Mehbooba Mufti to down is aware of what really happened but they are detaining her so that people do not come to know the reality.”

Giving example of the molestation of a woman of Damhal Hanjipora during the former chief minister Omar Abdullah’s government, Parvez said Mehbooba’s government was following the same protocol of denying access to legal counsel of the victim by holding her in custody.

Asking the government to give them access to look into the matter, he said JKCCS would challenge this.

“The minor girl and her family should decide what is right for them not the Army, Police, Intelligence Bureau and Home Ministry, who are at work in this case,” Parvez said.

After the video statement of the girl had gone viral on social media, Army in its statements owned it while Police in whose custody the girl was maintained that they did not know who had shot the video and uploaded it on social media.

JKCCS statement

JKCCS on Thursday also released a statement in which it said the family of the minor Handwara girl had approached them for legal and other support.

JKCCS spokesperson said the family of the victim had appealed for immediate release of the minor girl and the father of the victim had sought legal assistance from them.

“The State under the garb of law and order is ensuring that all access to the family of the victim is denied so as to ensure protection to the armed forces personnel and seek to further distract from the crimes that have been committed – from the sexual assault to the killings. Any suggestion that the State is seeking to protect the minor girl and family must be rejected in the circumstances of this case and the actions of the police,” JKCCS spokesperson said. “Any protection, if necessary, must be provided at the residence of the victim and not at the police station.”

Calling for the immediate release of the minor girl and her father, JKCCS sought access to their legal counsel.

“Government of Jammu Kashmir must allow immediate and unhindered access for the legal counsel team of JKCCS to the victim and her family,” they said.

The spokesperson said on April 12, 2016, a minor girl (aged 16) from Handwara had accused army personnel of sexual assault.

“On the same day, a video of the minor girl was released exonerating the armed forces of sexual assault. The identity of the victim is revealed through this video that appears to have been recorded by the police and then widely circulated by army and Indian media. The family of the girl state that she has been kept in police custody from 12th April to date. Last night, around 1 am, the father of the victim was called to the Handwara police station. He was accompanied by his brother. Since then his whereabouts are not known. The family has been denied access to both the minor girl and her father,” JKCCS spokesperson said.

He said the detention of the minor girl and her father are outside the powers of the State and appears to be an attempt to further pressurize the family to withdraw all allegations against the armed forces.

“The manner in which the video has been recorded and then circulated is a gross violation of the special protections afforded to minors particularly during investigation of sexual assault cases. The actions of the police and the army would necessarily invite criminal prosecution if investigated,” the spokesperson said.

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