The Jammu and Kashmir high court on Wednesday directed the police superintendent to facilitate a meeting of the minor girl at the centre of the Handwara crisis and her mother and lawyers.
Hearing the habeas corpus for the immediate release of the girl, her father and aunt, the high court said that a PIL had been filed by the Bar Association seeking “similar relief” and directed that “the petition be clubbed with the PIL that is next listed for 26 April 2016”.
“The consequence of today’s proceedings is six more days of illegal police custody for the Handwara minor girl. But, the direction to SP Ghulam Jeelani Wani will ensure that for the first time since being detained the minor girl and family will have unhindered access to legal counsel,” read a statement from the Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS), which is providing legal help to the girl and her family.
The girl had alleged that she was molested by local boys but rumours suggested army jawans were involved, leading to protests and the death of five people in firing — which hogged headlines last week.
Rights groups say that she is being kept under “illegal detention” but in the status report filed before the court on Wednesday, of which HT has a copy, the police said the girl and her father -- “on the request and choice of the father” -- was “shifted to the house of his friend”.
However, the JKCCS maintains that the father-daughter duo is kept in a house around 15km from Handwara town, in a secluded “jungle-like” place against their wish.
A JKCCS spokesperson, Khurram Parvez, said that the girl called the body on Tuesday evening to express concerns about her detention. On their advice, she called Kashmir IGP SJM Gillani who cut the call without letting her speak. HT repeatedly tried contacting Gillani but he did not respond.
The girl later spoke to the chairperson of the State Commission for Women, Nayeema Mehjoor, and explained her situation and she, according to JKCCS, promised to help.
“I am in constant contact with girl and parents. Let us give priority to her safety,” she wrote in a comment on Parvez’s Facebook post regarding the girl’s detention.