May 28, 2015 3:56:23 am
They met on Children’s Day two years ago. She, an 18-year-old and a management student; he, a 20-year-old and a law student, both studying at the O P Jindal Global University in Sonepat. A month later, as their friendship grew, messages became frequent. With restrictions restraining female students from visiting male hostels and vice-versa, they would make it a point to meet after class and stay out till 10 pm, the cut-off hour to return to hostels.
All that changed on April 11.
That was the day the girl approached the university administration, alleging that the 20-year-old, later identified by police as Hardik Sikri, had been blackmailing her for a year and half and had forced her to have sexual relations with him and two others — Vikas Garg and Karan Chhabra. The three young men are in jail, and the police are chasing a convoluted trail of unanswered questions.
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In her complaint registered with the Rai police station in Sonepat, the girl stated that on November 14, 2013, she befriended Sikri. “A month later, our friendship grew and he began forcing me to send him explicit pictures of myself. Even when I refused, he forced me to do so. Following this, he began blackmailing me into having sexual relations with him on the threat that he would circulate these pictures widely,” she stated in her complaint.
According to the victim, Sikri soon began forcing her to have sexual relations with two of his roommates. “The accused (Sikri) would sexually harass me on campus only after 10 pm. While one of the accused established frequent sexual relations with me, I was forced to maintain this with the other two on three separate occasions,” she told police.
University sources said it was a friend of the victim who noticed a change in her behaviour and informed her mother over phone. The parents turned up at the hostel and she narrated her ordeal and the matter was taken up.
Vice-Chancellor Professor Dr C Raj Kumar told The Indian Express: “As soon as the matter was reported to us, our students’ disciplinary committee and the sexual harassment committee held a joint meeting. At the end of it, members felt there was evidence enough to expel the students immediately, which was done so promptly. Police were informed subsequently.”
Sources said the three accused were arrested the same day. All three were said to have good academic records — Sikri is a four-time gold medalist in his major and a state-level volleyball player.
Meanwhile, police say the victim is yet to submit her mobile phone, containing the photographs she sent to the main accused, as evidence in the case. The photographs on the phone of the accused have also not been recovered.
Sub Inspector Sudesh, investigating officer in the case, said: “We have information that the three accused destroyed the SIM cards before the complaint was made. They probably got a whiff of the her decision to file a complaint. We are verifying this. The image files in the phones have been erased but the instruments have been sent to the CFSL for an examination. We have conducted the victim’s medical examination and have sent the samples for examination. We have also received information that the victim was taken to a resort where she was forced to establish sexual relations with the accused.”
Officials at the resort declined to speak to The Indian Express stating that the matter was sub-judice.
Asked if they were aware of their children’s actions, Karan’s uncle Dharampal said “His mother passed away on February 4 this year and the girl claimed that he was with her at the hotel. The boy was with us throughout till the 13th day ceremony was performed. Our child received a call from the main accused on April 11 informing him that he was in trouble, that he needed help. He rushed out saying he would be home in an hour. But two hours later, we were told he had been arrested. The university did not once call us to clarify anything.”
Asked about the victim’s allegation that police did not do a proper investigation, Sonepat SP Ashok Kumar said: “We had given the victim three notices asking her to join the investigation. She has refused to do so. She has even refused to give us her mobile phone which contains the pictures that had purportedly been circulated. We have sent the phones of the accused to the CFSL for an examination. The results are awaited.”
Meanwhile, university officials said that they were extending all possible support to the victim in terms of holding tuitions over Skype, making arrangements to let her take the examination in Delhi. “We send our staff to deliver notes especially to her and she has been provided an internship so that she can keep herself occupied, away from her peers,” an official said.
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