The police constable, who is seen hitting the woman, says she was following orders. The woman’s family and the principal of the nursing college, where she is a fourth-year student, have come out strongly in her support. The woman’s friend, who is her classmate, has gone into hiding.
The 29-second viral video, which shows constable Priyanka Singh beating and berating the woman inside a police jeep with three other colleagues after rescuing her from a mob, is playing out along several divides in UP’s Meerut.
The clip is from September 23, when the Hindu woman was with her friend, a 22-year-old Muslim man, at his apartment when it was “raided” by a mob. Priyanka’s team arrived and took the woman away in their jeep when the video was taken.
“I simply followed my senior’s orders and now I am paying for it. It was the first time I had gone on a UP 100 call and sat in that jeep. I had no earlier experience… It’s just my bad luck,” claims Priyanka, adding that she belongs to the “oppressed SC community” and “cannot oppress another person”.
Commissioned as a constable two years ago, she has been suspended along with the three others, constable Salek Chand, constable Neetu Singh and home guard Sainserpal, following the incident — the clip also has a male voice making a derogatory reference to Muslims and asking the woman, “Sharam nahin aati (Aren’t you ashamed)?”
Priyanka’s colleagues, however, are trying to distance themselves from the episode.
“I was sitting in the front and didn’t know what was happening at the back,” claims Neetu. Chand claims he “tried to stop constable Priyanka” but that exchange wasn’t recorded. Sainserpal, the driver who allegedly shot the video, is “unwell” and not in a position to speak, according to his brother.
Speaking over the phone from her relative’s home in Delhi, the woman counters Priyanka’s claims. “She can say whatever she wants to, the truth is out for everyone to see. I just want to get back to my studies,” says the student, the second of three siblings.
At her home, in Hapur tehsil, her staunchest defender is her mother. “On most Sundays, when my daughter would get leave, she would come home. She cannot do anything wrong. The people who found her should have called us. Why did they have to beat the two of them?” she asks. Her husband is a farmer who also owns a general store in the village.
“I wanted my daughter to get a professional degree and a job. We have been paying Rs 1.5 lakh for the past three years for her college and hostel fees. This is her final year and we will send her back to college soon,” says the mother.
Since the incident, the Muslim man has been in hiding, “recovering from his injuries”. “It was 11.30 am and she was at my place to get her notes. I don’t know who tipped off the mob. At least 15-20 men beat me up mercilessly. My eyes were bleeding and I couldn’t breathe. I am in a lot of pain even now,” he says, speaking over the phone.
Pointing out that he is one of the seven men in his class of 50, he says, “I am friends with all the women in my class. I was only targeted because of my religion. They beat me badly and the police did nothing,” claims the son of a farmer, who took up nursing after failing to clear his MBBS entrance exam.
On Wednesday, another 45-second video, showing the man being thrashed by the mob in the presence of a policeman, emerged. In the video, the men are heard saying, “We will kill you one by one. Why have you taken a flat here?”
The families of the two victims have not filed a complaint. But an FIR has been registered under IPC sections 147 (rioting), 323 (voluntarily causing hurt), 452 (house-trespass), 298 (deliberate intent to wound religious feelings), 504 (intentional insult), 506 (criminal intimidation) against 18 named and “25-30” unidentified men at Medical College Station.
At the nursing college, started in 2012, the principal asserts that “no one has any right to interfere in a personal relationship”. “The college does not and should not monitor them on their day off. In this case, the woman was there for her studies… but even if that was not the case, it is nobody’s business. Those men were trying to indulge in mob justice, and that is unacceptable,” she says.
“We have 300 students, of which 5-10 per cent are men. I have never received any complaint against the two students in this case,” she says.
Their classmates and friends say the incident has left them “shocked and disturbed”. “He has helped a lot of us in completing assignments and research work. His academic record is very good, too,” says a woman student.
Dismissing claims of ‘love jihad’ made by the mob, the man’s “close” friend who accompanied him back from the police station, says, “I am a Hindu and I am his closest friend. Doesn’t that tell you something?”