Srinagar: The minor girl in Handwara, who is at the centre of simmering agitation that saw killing of five civilians in army and police firing following her alleged molestation, has accused the police of forcing her into making a statement exonerating a soldier and illegally detaining her, according to Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society.
The girl and her family are under constant police surveillance despite her release from the police custody and relocation at a relative’s place in Zachaldara village of the district, the JKCCS said.
The police also created impediments in the meeting between the girl with lawyers appointed as legal counsels by her family.
The CCS in a statement said that its team managed to meet the minor girl at her relatives’ place late on Sunday night even as the police tried to hamper the meeting. The team said that the minor girl has on two occasions – in the video recorded and circulated and in the Section 164-A CrPC statement before the judicial magistrate – been pressurized to testify in a manner as directed by the police. Neither of these statements was made voluntarily.
The CCS said that from 12 April to 14 April 2016 the minor girl and family were illegally detained at the Handwara Police Station. From 11 pm of 14 April to the morning of 16 April 2016 the minor girl and family were illegally detained at a police personnel’s private residence at Shehlal village who was a complete stranger to the family, the statement said.
On 16 April 2016, the minor girl’s statement under Section164-A CrPC was recorded before the judicial magistrate at Handwara. Her father was not present in court during the recording of the statement.
No lawyer was present in court accompanying her. In the courtroom, besides the judge, there were four other persons who the minor girl couldn’t identify. From the night of 16 April 2016 to Monday morning the family has stayed at Zachaldara under constant police surveillance and control.
The JKCCS said that within few minutes of the its team’s meeting with the girl, the Divisional Officer, Masroor Ahmad, visited the house again and asked the JKCCS team to come out and were taken to Police Post Zachaldara.
“For close to two hours, in a hostile and confrontational atmosphere, Divisional Officer of the Police Post, SHO Police Station Handwara, Ajaz Ahmad and DSP (Operations), and in charge SDPO, Baljeet Singh sought to persuade the legal team to leave the area immediately,” he said.
Following is the JKCCS statement:
The police team denied that the minor girl and family was in custody but strongly advised that she and her family not be moved from their present location.
The team again met briefly with the minor girl’s family at their uncle’s residence at 12 in the midnight, the team members witnessed two police personnel sitting inside the room of the girl.
From Zachaldara when the JKCCS team left in their car, it was followed all the way until the team left the Kupwara district. Perhaps this was to ensure that the team doesn’t return to the minor girl’s family.
The CCS said that police have confiscated the phone of the family so as to ensure that there can be no contact between the family and legal team. The actions of the police are effectively meant to serve as a message and punishment for the minor girl and family meeting with the JKCCS legal team and deciding to enforce their legal rights. When contacted by a JKCCS representative, and asked why the family is being harassed, DIG, North Kashmir Range, Uttam Chand, challenged the right of JKCCS to question him on behalf of the family. JKCCS also contacted Nayeema Mehjoor, Chairperson of the State Commission for Women, who promised to assist in the appropriate re-location of the family to a private and safe place, away from media and police or other official interference but with unhindered access to the right of the family to lawyers.
The minor girl has sought, and requires, the time, space and privacy to be able to take part in the important investigations. Presently, every effort is being made by the police to harass and intimidate the family. There is an urgent need for the family to be re-located to a safe place, allowed unhindered access to their legal team and be provided any other support they require. The case is listed before the High Court on 20 April 2016, but the ensuing 48 hours are crucial for the minor girl and family and their safety and JKCCS is making every effort to ensure that the police intimidation is stopped, the statement added. It appears the Government wants to pressurize the family to discontinue the legal struggle.
The JKCCS has, on Sunday, formally written to the Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti, Director General of J&K Police, IGP Kashmir, DIG North Kashmir, Divisional Commissioner Kashmir and DC Kupwara for unhindered access of the legal counsels to the family. So far, the Government has chosen to not respond. On Monday, the JKCCS has also sought an appointment with the IGP Kashmir to emphasize the need to immediately end the harassment of the minor girl and her family.