A woman alleged she was pulled out of her car and gang-raped by seven men, including her brother-in-law, on February 23 near Haryana’s Murthal village, authorities said on Sunday, amid reports of mass sexual assaults in the area this month during violent protests by the Jat community.
The development came hours after police said three people, who claimed they saw a mob of protesters drag women with torn clothes into fields, refused to confirm that there was any rape or assault.
The victim, a Delhi resident originally from Haryana’s Sonepat district, lodged an FIR at a women’s police station in Murthal but officers said it was possible the incident was not linked to the alleged spate of rapes.
The woman recorded her statement on camera, saying she was raped by seven men after being dragged out of a van in which she was travelling with her daughter. She told police she can identify all the accused. She added that the men molested her daughter and tore her clothes.
Police sources said a personal dispute may also have triggered the crime.
The Haryana government is probing media reports saying vehicles were stopped on national highway 1 near Murthal in Sonepat during the pro-reservation campaign and women dragged out and raped.
TV news channels beamed footage of “witnesses” coming out to speak on the alleged sexual assaults, saying women were seen being pushed into the fields.
A senior police officer told HT truck drivers Niranjan Singh, Yadavender Singh and Sukhvinder Singh were questioned in front of a judicial magistrate.
“They refused to admit that they had witnessed any rape or molestation incident during the riots on February 22,” he said.
The officer said the drivers testified that they only saw vehicles being torched.
“So far there is no evidence to prove the allegations of rape and molestation on GT Road,” he added.
The head of an all-woman special investigation team constituted to probe the allegations, deputy inspector general of police Rajshree Singh, said, “The SIT has already recorded the statement of the alleged witnesses, including Niranjan Singh, but I don’t know what he has said, as I am travelling to Delhi.”
Members of the National Commission for Women who visited Murthal on Thursday to investigate reports of mass sexual assaults said they have not come across any evidence.
“No witness has come forward to give an account of the alleged crimes,” said Rekha Sharma, who is heading the team. “We have not found any evidence.”
Twenty-eight people were killed and over 200 injured in the nine-day long agitation which saw highways, roads and railway tracks being blocked in Haryana. Authorities had to requisition the army and paramilitary forces to control the situation.
On Sunday, Haryana chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar said those involved in violence and reported inappropriate behaviour with women during the Jat stir will not be spared, asking people to share information about the incidents.
The state government will compensate those whose property, including residential or commercial, was damaged during these incidents, he said.
“The state government is taking serious action on the news reports which appeared in the media about alleged inappropriate behaviour with some women during the protest at Murthal in Sonepat district.”
With a view to enabling those affected by the recent agitation to communicate directly with the chief minister, the state government released email ids -- reliefcmharyana@gmail. com and email@example.com -- and a WhatsApp number, 9501053696.
A spokesperson said the people can either upload any audio or video clip, photograph or any document which they might consider worth bringing to the notice of the chief minister.