The Handwara minor girl continues to be in police custody despite her parents, lawyers and herself having pleaded multiple times that she be freed to pursue justice. The case already looks like a classic in which the police are trying to determine everything themselves even as reasonable doubts have been repeatedly raised about the manner and intent of their actions following the initial allegation of a soldier molesting the schoolgirl. Let’s examine the facts. Immediately after the incident on April 12, the girl was dragged into police custody. Even as the protests continued during which soldiers and police killed five civilians, the much talked-about video-recorded statement of the girl in police custody was circulated, first anonymously and later officially by the army saying they had checked the authenticity of the video! If they knew the video was authentic, shouldn’t the army also know who recorded it? But that is not the question being asked of them. Such forensic examinations are deployed only when the State’s ‘innocence’ must be established.
Legal opinion is clear about the criminality of the video recording and its circulation. But despite numerous FIRs registered by the police surrounding the incident and the following killings, the act of the video recording has not been included in them. Is it because either the police themselves did the criminal act, or because they know who did it while the girl was under their custody and thus they cannot plead ignorance? Whatever the case may be, the court, instead of taking note of the brazen criminal act, appears to be sidestepping the course of justice. On Wednesday, the High Court opened up the possibility of seeking monetary ‘compensation’ for the ‘molested’ schoolgirl who continues to be kept in police custody against her own and her parents’ will. The question that could be asked is: if the route to seek monitory compensation for the girl is open, why not the route to justice for the same atrocity?
The killing of five civilians in Handwara last month and the schoolgirl’s plight have become the latest additions to the staggering backlog of undelivered, and perhaps undeliverable, justice in Kashmir where monetary compensation in lieu of justice has been a norm for decades. The ‘rule of law’ is tyranny if the same law is not deployed to bring the state authorities also into its ambit, in this case, as in the past too, the police and the army. In Kashmir, India’s institutional capacity to deliver justice has an inverse relationship to its expanding economy and military power.