A 10-year-old Dalit girl who had to flee her home after being booked for sacrilege by the Sangrur police late last month may finally get to return, with the police planning to move the Juvenile Justice Board to quash the case.
Sangrur SSP Sandeep Kumar Garg said police are investigating the matter. A police officer said, “We will move the Juvenile Justice Board for the cancellation of FIR in a day or two. Our investigation has found that the incident happened by mistake.”
It was on June 28 that the the police booked the girl from a poor family for allegedly tearing off the pages of the Guru Granth Sahib at a village gurdwara. She was booked under Section 295 (a) following a complaint by members of the gurdwara managing committee who claimed they had seen the deed on the CCTV footage from the shrine. Following the case, the girl, her parents and 7-year-old brother were kept in police custody for five days before the girl was given bail by the court. Ever since, she has been staying with a relative.
Sacrilege is an incendiary issue in the state. An incident of sacrilege at Burj Jawahar Singh Wala village in Bargari, and the subsequent firing on protesters at Behbal Kalan in 2015 continues to cast a shadow on its politics.
On Saturday, the village sarpanch said: “Villagers have given it in writing to the Sangrur police that they have no objection to the girl’s acquittal if the police have found her innocent in their probe.”
Arshbir Singh Johal, legal-cum-probation officer, Department of Women and Child Development, said the FIR itself was illegal. “No FIR can be registered against a juvenile under any section with a prison term of less than seven years.”
It was on June 26 that a gurudwara priest found torn pages of the holy book and informed the managing committee president. “The CCTV cameras showed the girl tearing the pages. We asked her and she confessed to the crime though she did not give any reasons. Then we informed some Sikh organisations and police,” claimed the committee chief.
The sarpanch said they tried to resolve the matter locally but as the news spread, the issue spiralled out of control. “It was a sensitive matter and police was also under pressure to take action but everyone here believes that the girl tore the pages by mistake. Her grandfather is a baptised Sikh. She may not have even known the meaning of sacrilege,” the Sarpanch added.
The CCTV footage The Indian Express does not show the girl tearing pages. It simply shows her picking up a calendar, and then removing the rumala (cloth) from the Guru Granth Sahib. What she does after this is not clear from the footage.
The girl’s mother said: “We pleaded with them not to take any action, but nobody listened to us. I along with my husband, daughter and son, who is seven, were taken to police station, where we were kept for five days before being produced in court. My daughter was granted bail. Then police told us not to return to the village.”
The parents are now wary of bringing her back. “Nobody has said a word to us since we came back, but, sometimes, it hurts the way people look at us now,” said the mother.
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