Four days after a Tanzanian woman was allegedly stripped and beaten up by a mob on the outskirts of the city, triggering nationwide condemnation, there is still no clarity on the details of the incident.
Karnataka home minister G Parameshwara’s press conference on Thursday only added to the confusion as he contested the victim’s written statement and said she was not stripped.
In a brief conversation at the office of DCP (North) TR Suresh, the Tanzanian woman told HT, “My friend, Hasheem, approached two uniformed policemen who were standing and watching (the attack). The police threw him back into the crowd.”
Suresh quickly intervened as the girl was speaking and ushered her into his chamber to prevent her from revealing more. He also tried to dissuade her from speaking to a lawyer the All African Students’ Union had engaged.
“Why do you want a lawyer?” he asked the woman in an intimidating tone, not noticing that this correspondent was within earshot. Even as the lawyer, Darshana Mitra, from the Alternative Law Forum, protested, Suresh said to the victim, “This is not good for your case, madam. Are we not doing our job?” He abruptly ended his harangue when he spotted this reporter.
Azizi, one of the male victims who spoke to HT near the Acharya College where the victim studies, said the police threatened them and asked them not to speak to anybody, particularly the media. “They told us that if we spoke to the media, the locals who attacked us, will find us again. They ordered us to switch off our phones and stay indoors,” he said.
When HT spoke to the girl, she said she was under no pressure to avoid the media. As she was in the company of Suresh and several other police officers when she said this, it can not be said with certainty if she was speaking without pressure.
Bosco Kaweesi, legal adviser of the All African Students’ Union, said, “The girl is under tremendous pressure. She doesn’t know who to trust.”
There were contradictory versions on whether the police refused to register an FIR on the night of the attack. Helen, from the Tanzanian Students’ Association, said only one of the male victims went with her to register a complaint that night.
Kaweesi, however, contested this version and said, “All of them, including the girl, went to the police station. They have all been threatened by the police,” he said.
Home minister Parameshwara blurted out the woman’s name before live camera crews at the press conference in clear violation of Supreme Court guidelines that stipulate the identity of a sexual assault victim not be revealed.
Showing apathy towards the plight of the woman, who has said the police just watched as the mob attacked her and her friends, Parameshwara said the cops did a “good job”.
He read out the victim’s statement saying, “They assaulted us. My clothes were torn” and then proceeded to give his verdict saying the woman was not stripped.
Asked why he revealed the named of the victim at the press conference, Parameshwara said, “The media revealed the name first. So, I don’t see anything wrong in revealing the name.” He also denied that the girl was prevented from engaging a lawyer.