A controversy has erupted in Himachal Pradesh over the alleged rape of a student in a college in Dharamshala, with hundreds of students taking to the streets but Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh and police insisted that no such incident had taken place.
On Saturday, a woman had told the College principal Rampal Chopra, a teacher and some students that her sister had been raped in the college campus, triggering widespread protests by locals, students and various political outfits in Dharamsala, even as the social media went viral with unverified information related to the incident.
"Both, the woman who complained and the so-called victim have been identified and they stated that neither rape nor molestation was attempted," Kapil Sharma, Superintendent of Police, Kangra, said at a press conference in Dharamshala.
"The complainant who visited the principal's office on Saturday is a married lady but does not have any younger sister as claimed earlier and the so-called victim student has a younger brother and sister," the SP said.
The "victim" denied that any such thing happened to her and even told that she had not seen the complainant for past four years.
Speaking to reporters in Shimla, Himachal DGP Sanjay Kumar said the two women and their parents have been taken into protective custody and the parents have also stated that there was no truth in the case.
He said parents of the complainant had told the police that she had a history of "unpredictable behaviour" and had run away from home on some occasions, with police of a neighbouring state having brought her home once.
Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh dismissed the claims of gang-rape, saying the incident was being created to "malign the image of some people".
"The lady's friend is in police custody and he is being questioned. According to the investigation till now, the girl was being used to malign the image of some people. It appears to be an organised attempt to malign somebody. The culprits should be ashamed," he said, adding that investigation is on.
The entire story about rape or molestation was cooked up and the issue was blown out of proportion on social media, the DGP said.
Police had started investigations on May 16 itself and constituted a team headed by Additional SP, Shalini Agnihotri. Yesterday, an SIT was formed and an FIR registered, DGP Sanjay Kumar said, adding, they had also announced a reward of Rs 25,000 for providing information about the incident.
The CCTV was scanned and a sketch of the complainant was prepared, on the basis of which she was identified and taken into protective custody.
The complainant and the alleged victim have given diabolically opposite statements and as such their statements would be recorded tomorrow before the magistrate under section 154 of CrPC but investigations are continuing to ascertain the motive behind the sordid episode, the DGP said.
"Police is trying to find out as to why the lady complained verbally to Principal Rampal Chopra that her sister was gang-raped in the campus," ASP Shalini Agnihotri, member of the SIT, said in Dharamshala.
"We are also considering taking action against persons who are spreading rumours about the alleged gang-rape and posting unconfirmed details on social media sites and messaging apps," Sharma said.
Refuting students' claims that the complainant had produced photographs of the alleged victim to him, the college principal had earlier said that though the woman had approached him, she had not filed a written complaint.
Several organisations including VHP, SFI and ABVP have demanded stringent action against the culprits.
State VHP organising secretary, Manoj Kumar has demanded that culprits be immediately arrested, brought to justice and awarded capital punishment.
"If the case is not investigated properly and culprits are not awarded capital punishment, the crime against women would escalate in the state and the image of Himachal, known as 'Dev Bhumi' would be sullied," he said.
The SFI campus unit of HPU also protested against the alleged rape and said that despite the family members of the victim urging the principal of the college for registration of case against the accused, no action was taken.
"The culprits of heinous crime should be nabbed and stringent punishment be awarded to them," campus secretary Vikram Kaith demanded.
The ABVP took out protest march demanding action against the culprits.