Handwara protests: Girl levels allegations against police

Handwara protests: Girl levels allegations against police

A veil-wearing girl, presented by an NGO as the one who was at the centre of Handwara protests last month, today claimed that police had "pressurised" her to make a statement before a magistrate in which she exonerated an army man of molestation charges.

Addressing the media here, the girl demanded registration of a case against the police and anyone else found responsible for recording and circulating her video statement and for the "wrongful confinement and hostile treatment" from April 12 to May 12.

She made a statement, narrating what, according to her, had happened on April 12 and the subsequent developments. The media persons were discouraged from asking questions to her.

Handwara town and adjoining areas of Kupwara district of Kashmir had erupted last month after allegations that a 16-year-old girl had been molested by an army man.

In a video-recorded "statement" released by police later, the girl had said no soldier was involved in any molestation and had blamed a local boy for misbehaving with her.

Today, Khurram Parvez of NGO Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society, organised a press conference here in which the veil-wearing girl made the allegations of pressure from the police.

The parents of the girl at the heart of the controversy were also present at the press meet.

"In the morning of April 16, a policeman told me and my father that we have to give a statement as per his instructions before the court. He pressurised me to say that I was born in 1997 and also to stick to the statement in the recorded video," the girl claimed.

"We were forced to sign on documents and our statements were forcibly recorded before a court," she alleged.

"My statement and that of my father before the court was therefore not a voluntary statement. When I gave my statement before the court, my father was not allowed inside with me," she charged.

The girl demanded registration of an FIR against the police for recording the video, circulating it and intimidating her and her family.

"I demand an FIR be registered for a video that was recorded of me and then widely circulated in the public against my will. I and my family members were also kept in police detention against our will for one month and we were abused, intimidated and harassed by the police," she said.

About the incident that happened on April 12, the girl said that after leaving her school, "I had to go to the (Handwara main) chowk as I had left my phones there at a shop named 'Information Hub' as we were not allowed to take phones into the school."

The girl said after taking the phones, she went to a toilet located at the main chowk. "Unfortunately, the toilets at my school had been shut and therefore I had no option but to visit the public toilet," she claimed.

"I entered the toilet and at that point there was no one else inside. As I was exiting, an army soldier forcibly held my hand. I screamed and ran away from the bathroom area.    He was in uniform and so there was no mistaking him to be a soldier," the girl alleged and demanded punishment to the soldier for his "actions of sexual assault".

In the meanwhile, the girl said, a crowd gathered and she was taken to police station against her will.

"The behaviour of the police personnel towards me as I arrived at the police station was of hostility. The police personnel were abusive and threatening. I narrated to three masked policemen what the Army soldier had done to me. They asked me not to tell anyone the real story as it would endanger my life and the lives of my family members," she claimed.

She alleged that when she resisted, one of them slapped her and told her to change her statement which "I agreed to" because of the pressure.

"Later, SP (Superintendent of police Ghulam) Jeelani came after 20-25 minutes and asked what had happened? I told him what had happened and then he went out and returned with a mobile phone and recorded the statement," she alleged.

"The statement that I gave on the video was what policemen had asked me to say. The SP took the video deceitfully. No one from my family was with me at that time," she claimed.

She added, "I pleaded with him (the SP) to not to release the statement to media which he promised. But he made the statement public without my knowledge. How could he do so?"

She charged that "in order to save the Army, he put my honour at stake."

The girl claimed that she and her family were kept in police custody at different houses and their movements were controlled by the police.     

"We were under constant surveillance, and we were being intimidated, harassed and blackmailed by police," the girl said.

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