Hounded by "overzealous" cops and photojournalists, a college girl committed suicide in Jalandhar on Thursday after being spotted with a boy in a car.
Shivali (20), a student of Prem Chand Markanda SD College, ended her life by jumping in front of a train near the Domoria railway flyover.
Earlier, a crowd gathered in the old Jawahar Nagar bazaar near the women's college following a collision between two cars. A police team led by inspector Balwinder Kaur reached the spot and tried to resolve the matter.
The police told Shivali, who was in one of the cars, to come out. No sooner did she leave the car that the photojournalists, who were accompanying the police, started clicking her pictures. Shivali, a local resident, threatened to end her life if the lensmen didn't stop, but her pleadings fell on deaf ears.
The police not only grilled her but also made her sign a letter of apology before letting her go with a warning. Unable to bear this public humiliation, Shivali took the extreme step.
Ashwani Dhand, president, Old Jawahar Nagar Welfare Society, alleged that the police and the media were responsible for the girl's death. "The cops, in order to get media coverage for the drive against eve-teasing and public indecency, invited the photographers, who went overboard while doing their job," Dhand added.
An eyewitness said the police team initially descended on Ramesh Colony Park near the college after receiving residents' complaints about nuisance caused by young couples. All couples, barring one, managed to flee. "The cops made a boy do sit-ups and let the couple go after warning them not to meet in the park again," he said.
Later, the police team reached the scene of the accident. "Shopkeepers and area residents, too, assembled there. The girl was in a state of shock. She asked the photojournalists not to click her pictures, but to no avail," the eyewitness said.
Another eyewitness said he subsequently took the girl to his shop and offered her water. "Before she left, I advised her not to get panicky. About 30 minutes later, we got the news of her suicide," he added.
When contacted, inspector Balwinder Kaur feigned ignorance about Shivali's presence at the spot, saying that many boys and girls were present there. HT, however, is in possession of a picture showing Balwinder holding Shivali's arm.
"I facilitated a compromise between the two groups of youths and later allowed them to leave. I didn't make anyone sign a written apology," she claimed.
Police commissioner Gaurav Yadav said he had ordered an inquiry to find out whether Balwinder had exceeded overstepped her brief. "I don't believe in moral policing. I have told additional deputy commissioner of police Navjot Singh Mahal to conduct a departmental inquiry and submit a report.
Besides, instructions are being issued about not inviting photojournalists in future while carrying out drives to check eve-teasing around educational institutions," he said.
Meanwhile, the government railway police have initiated inquest proceedings under Section 174 of the CrPC (Criminal Procedure Code).