The minor girl, whose alleged molestation by an Armyman led to protests in Handwara Tuesday leading to the death of four persons in Army and police firing, is in the custody of J&K Police.
Soon after the protests erupted, the police brought the girl to the police station and allegedly recorded her video statement exonerating the Army of sexual assault allegation. The video subsequently got leaked through social media.
DIG for North Kashmir Uttam Chand said the girl’s father too was in their custody. “Yes, they are in our custody. They are in protective custody,” he told The Indian Express. He, however, said he was not aware whether the video statement was recorded in the police station or not.
This fresh twist to the leaked video issue is set to embarrass the Mehbooba Mufti government, especially as it was used as “damage control” after the firing incident. No minister approached by The Indian Express was available for comments.
On Thursday evening, Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS), a human rights group in Srinagar, issued a statement, demanding the immediate release of the girl and her father. “We have been approached by the family of the minor girl for legal counsel and other support,” said Khurram Parvez, coordinator of the group.
“The family states that the girl has been kept in police custody since April 12. Last night, around 1 am, her father was called to the Handwara police station. He was accompanied by his brother. Since then his whereabouts are not known. The family has been denied access to both the minor girl and her father,” Parvez said.
JKCCS has demanded release of the girl and her father, saying the detention is aimed at providing protection to the armed forces. It said if the police want to protect the girl, the protection must be “provided at the residence of the victim” and not at the police station.
“The manner in which the video has been recorded and then circulated is a gross violation of the special protection afforded to minors, particularly during investigation of sexual assault cases,” Parvez said. “The actions of the police and the Army would necessarily invite criminal prosecution if investigated.”
When asked, DIG Chand said that he was not aware if the girl’s family had sought legal help for their release. “I am not aware of this,” he said.