Views from Srinagar
Malik Zahra Khalid
THE latest statement by Handwara victim girl that she was forced by police to give the statement to absolve army and police has shown how difficult it is to report conflict on the ground. It is normally very difficult for the journalists to cover Kashmir conflict as there are many layers in every story as it unfolds. The unfortunate incident of alleged molestation of Handwara victim girl is one of the examples of such difficulties being faced by the journalists while reporting in Kashmir.
Flanked by her parents, the victim girl told media in Srinagar that policemen in the custody harassed her, slapped her and forced her to give a wrong statement and said that she was “molested” by army jawan and whatever she told in the video clipping shot by the policemen of Handwara inside the Police Station was under duress.
J&K High Court had to intervene earlier when they told her parents that they should give a written affidavit that they don’t need any police protection. Subsequently police released her and soon she came to Srinagar to tell her part of story as she walked to freedom.
Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS), a Srinagar based rights group, fought her case in the Court and said that illegal detention of the minor girl and her family was ended by police after the Court intervention. This rights group unleashed a sustained campaign against the illegal detention of the girl.
The group said that police tried its best to break the will and determination of the minor girl and her family by intimidating and harassing them. Due to the efforts of Civil Society, this issue was raised at multiple forums which resulted in a sustained campaign against police harassment. The latest to join the issue is Syed Ali Geelani who said that the statement out of police detention by the Handwara girl was a reflection of grave crimes being committed by men-in-uniform against the women in Kashmir. He demanded impartial investigation by independent investigation commission and immediate action against the involved higher officials of army and police. Coming down heavily on J&K Police, Geelani said that professional responsibility of local police is to protect life, property and honor of the people, but instead they were misusing their powers against general public and have become virtually private organization of Indian army and of mainstream politicians.
Coming to justice for this victim girl, now the facts are in the open. She is out of police detention and all those claims by the police that she was in their protective custody are over. The statement of the victim girl out of police custody is most important for the Court and for the society. She has suffered for weeks along with her family as the police detained them illegally without any justification. In the civilized societies, such behavior of police is unheard of. State Police Chief and Home Minister would have resigned in any society that based on a uniform civil code.
It will be difficult for the victim girl to live a normal life after this tragedy in which her family also suffered. Police has cut short not only her youthful life, but they have also snatched those smiles from her face she used to be in possession of. Who will restore her innocence and her youthful days back? Police has to answer a lot to the society and to the Court of Law as the victim girl claims she has undergone horrific experiences in police detention and has been through a mental trauma from which she is finding it very difficult to come out.
Police so much dominates the society that the civilian government could not get the victim and her family out of their clutches; and finally it was the human rights groups that intervened to bring an end to the ordeal of this family. The girl told media in Srinagar that she was pressurized along with her family by police to give a statement of their choice in the Court before Magistrate. She further said that she was forced to sign the documents and the statement was taken under duress. That means whatever she said in the Court of Law along with her parents was not a voluntary statement.
Before media the victim girl demanded registration of an FIR against the police for recording the video and circulating it in the public. She demands an FIR also against the police for harassing, pressuring and intimidating her family. This case has become a test case for the Courts to intervene in such matters with more force to act as a deterrent for the police who are enjoying absolute powers in Jammu and Kashmir State.
The fresh statement of the victim girl has changed the entire story of the incident and the U-turn of the victim saying that she was allegedly molested by army jawan has given fresh ammunition to the opposition asking for judicial probe into the entire issue. Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti has to intervene in this matter as the victim girl by her statement has brought a big question mark on the credibility of the police handling such incidents in Kashmir. This would be a test case for Mehbooba Mufti also who says that she will fight for the rights of females in the state.
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