India: Kashmiri Girl Says Police Coerced Her into False Statement about Attempted Molestation

Amin Masoodi
Srinagar, India
160517-IN-kashmir-protest-620.jpg Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front activists scuffle with Indian police during a protest in Srinagar over the killing of three youths in Handwara, when the army fired into a crowd of civilians incensed by the alleged molestation of a girl, April 15, 2016.

A 16-year-old Kashmiri girl is sticking by her allegation that an Indian soldier tried to molest her last month, and is now saying that local police coerced her into giving a false account of the incident on camera.

The girl told BenarNews that she was also humiliated and slapped while being confined and “put through a month of hell” at a local police station in April.

Police officials are rejecting the girl’s latest accusation resulting from her original allegation that a soldier attempted to molest her triggered a wave of violence in Indian-controlled Kashmir. The predominantly Muslim region in the Himalayas has been the focus of a territorial dispute between India and Pakistan since 1947, and a separatist insurgency has raged in Kashmir’s Indian-administered region since the late 1980s.

“[A sub-inspector] spat on my face and abused me in the police station, where I was confined for a month in the garb of police protection,” the high school student from Kupwara district’s Handwara town, some 70 km (43.4 miles) from Srinagar, told BenarNews.

She alleged that an Indian soldier approached her as she stepped out of a public toilet near an army bunker on April 12. When word of the incident spread a series of clashes broke out between locals and security forces, which led to five civilian deaths.

“A soldier forcibly held my hand as I stepped out of the washroom but I somehow managed to free myself from him. Soon, local youths gathered at the spot and raised a hue and cry,” the girl said, adding that she was immediately whisked away to the police station.

“A policeman slapped me and took me to the police station, where I was kept in detention for days,” she said.

Under Indian law, victims of any sexual crime cannot be named without their consent, more so if they are minors. She declined to give her name.

After some time, three masked men, accompanied by a Handwara police official recorded a video statement from her, the girl alleged, adding she was made to blame unidentified local youth for the attempted molestation.

“The (official) deceitfully recorded my video statement. He had promised that it would not be released. However, a couple of days later, I was shocked to learn the video was widely circulated to the media and on social networking platforms. On April 16, I was again forced to make the same statement before a local court,” she said.

‘Under investigation’

Police refuted her new allegations.

“The incident is already under investigation and, if at this stage, the girl wants to record another statement, we will investigate it,” Uttam Chand, north Kashmir’s deputy inspector general of police, told BenarNews.

“The girl has already recorded her statement before the Chief Judicial Magistrate out of her own free will. I denounce her latest assertions before the media,” he added.

On Monday, the girl appeared before a press conference with her face covered, demanding that a criminal case be registered against Handwara’s police chief and his subordinates for coercing her into recording a false statement.

“The incident has maligned my reputation and lent immense insecurity to my life and of my family members,” she told reporters.

“My parents and I were intimidated and abused by the police, who also forced me to request the court for protection,” she said, adding the police forced her and her parents “to sign blank documents in a bid to save the army from embarrassment.”

After receiving a petition from her parents a day earlier, the High Court on May 12 directed police to release her from their protection.

Col. N.N. Joshi, spokesman for the Indian Army, told BenarNews that the army was conducting an independent probe into the April 12 incident.

“The matter is sub-judicious and it would be improper to offer any comment on the girl’s latest statement. But the army is still investigating the allegations of molestation against the soldier. If he is found guilty, he will be dealt with as per law,” he said.


Add your comment by filling out the form below in plain text. Comments are approved by a moderator and can be edited in accordance with RFAs Terms of Use. Comments will not appear in real time. RFA is not responsible for the content of the postings. Please, be respectful of others' point of view and stick to the facts.