Judge records Handwara girl’s statement; mother files petition, says Police recorded video ‘under duress’
Police disrupt JKCCC-sponsored press conference of the girl’s mother
Ahmed Ali Fayyaz
JAMMU, April 16: A judicial magistrate in Handwara on Saturday recorded the statement of a sixteen-year-old girl student under section 164-A of Criminal Procedure Code even as her mother filed a petition of wrongful confinement in the Jammu and Kashmir High Court while alleging that Police had put her daughter under duress and got her statement recorded and released to media illegally on April 13th. An alleged attempt of the teenager’s molestation by a soldier, though contradicted by the girl in the video, triggered off clashes between demonstrators and Police/ security forces in Kupwara district---leading to death of five civilians and breakdown of normality across Kashmir valley.
Sources said that the girl, who had been in the custody of Police along with her father and brother for the last four days, was produced before a judicial magistrate in Handwara on Saturday. The judge reportedly recorded her statement in-camera in presence of her father and brother under section 164-A Cr PC.
Reports awaiting official confirmation said that after her statement was recorded, the girl was handed over to her family and taken to an undisclosed location.
Simultaneously, in a related development in Srinagar, activists of Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society, which has been documenting and highlighting the human rights abuse allegedly committed by Police, security forces and counterinsurgents, filed a writ petition in the J&K High Court on behalf of the girl’s family. It has been alleged in the petition that Police had held her, as also her father, in wrongful confinement and got her statement recorded “under duress”.
Mr Justice Muzaffar Hussain Attar directed the Police to explain under which law it had confined the minor girl. The judge also sought an explanation how the girl’s statement had been recorded in absence of her family members and how the same, with full exposure of her face, had been released to media in breach of the Supreme Court of India guidelines. He directed that Police should not produce her before media for any interaction and exposure. Besides, the judge directed Police to arrange for recording of the girl’s statement under law before the nearest judicial magistrate.
JKCCC functionary Khurram Pervez arranged a press conference by the girl’s mother at a restaurant in Lambert Lane, in Civil Lines area of Srinagar. However, middle-rank Police officers, including a Superintendent of Police and a Dy SP, appeared at the restaurant and they did not permit the mediapersons to interact with the woman. Still, an NDTV correspondent, who had already sneaked in, recorded the woman’s interview which went on air subsequently on the television channel.
As claimed by JKCCC, the woman alleged that Police had held her daughter and husband in wrongful confinement and got her video recorded illegally. She alleged that on April 12th, a soldier of Army had followed her daughter to a public lavatory and attempted molestation but the girl’s “brothers” (local male students) raised commotion. This ignited the clashes and Army opened fire in which two boys were “martyred”.
"After her school closed down, she came out with other girls and walked into the bathroom in the market at about 3:30 p.m. A soldier followed her. When she saw him, she screamed to attract the shopkeepers’ attention. The shopkeepers and the boys could not tolerate their sister being in trouble. A crowd gathered. She was taken police station but the soldier escaped. Meanwhile stone throwing started. Why did they throw stones? They did it for their Muslim sister as they couldn’t tolerate it. Police and army opened fire and martyred the youths”, the girl’s mother said in a video released by JKCCC.
Police have maintained complete silence but communicated to senior government functionaries that the girl, along with her father and brother, had been kept in “protective custody” for three days of turbulence so as to ensure that nobody harmed her or her family for giving clean chit to Army in an alleged attempt of molestation.