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The Chhattisgarh Police has arrested one CRPF jawan while another is absconding, for allegedly sexually harassing school children of a government residential school in Palnar in Dantewada on July 31. Senior police officials said that according to the principal, and the students, the two jawans accosted the girls when they were on their way to and from the toilet in the midst of a rakshabandhan programme organised at the school for CRPF troopers, and molested at least three girls under the guise of conducting a body search. A case was registered on August 7.
Senior police officials said that the two jawans, both from the 231 battalion, have been identified as Neeraj Kandwal and Shamim Ahmed. Abhishek Pallava, Additional Superintendent of Police, Dantewada confirmed to the Indian Express, “Both the accused have been identified, and while Shamim Ahmed has been arrested, Kandwal is absconding and a warrant has been issued for him. Two days after the incident, on August 3, Kandwal went on leave to his home district of Uttarakhand, and a police team has been sent to his village.”
Senior officers said that according to the complaint they had received, on July 31, an annual raksha bandhan programme was being held in the residential school, in collaboration with a media house. The event was held between 9 am and 3 pm. “At one point it started raining, so people had to move inside. A group of 16 girls then made their way to the toilets. These two personnel accosted them, and said that some of them had to be searched, and proceeded to touch at least three girls inappropriately. The next step is to have statements recorded under section 164 in front of a magistrate, so it will become clearer how many girls were searched. But the allegation is that one personnel conducted the searches, and the other watched,” a district official said. When the Dantewada Police was asked to confirm which of the two jawans have prima facie conducted the body searches, an official said, “Neeraj Kandwal is the prime accused.”
Abhishek Pallava, ASP of Police also said that the arrests were made after the victims picked the accused from photographs they were shown. “We had cooperation from the CRPF, and from the video cameras in the hostel, we took cutouts of everyone present. Senior CRPF officials also provided the details and photos of everyone there. We then showed the 16 girls a set of 254 photograhs, and they came to the same consensus on two photograohs based on which they were identified. The sections they have been arrested under are 354A of the IPC(sexual harassment) and section 8 of the POCSO Act,” he said.