Three days after a case was registered into the January 28 gangrape in Shahkot sub-division's Mandhala Chhana village, the Jalandhar district (rural) police managed to get hold of the three accused. But the "massive manhunt" proved a damp squib as the three - Balwinder Singh (30), Sher Singh (34) and Charanjit Singh (23), distant uncles of the 14-year-old victim -- walked into the district police headquarters here and surrendered.
The father of the girl, meanwhile, alleged that cops were pressurising and threatening his family in the village - a charge denied by senior superintendent of police (SSP) Yurinder Singh Hayre.
Announcing to the media that the accused had been "arrested after they surrendered", SSP Hayre not only tried to pat his own back, claiming that the case had been "cracked within three days" due to the police's "prompt efforts", but also reiterated doubts over the veracity of the allegation of rape.
When pressed about the alleged loopholes in the police action, in turn, the SSP insisted that he would wait for a medical report confirming rape.
QUESTIONING THE CASE
"During investigation, it has to light that the girl was not keeping well since before the reported gangrape," the SSP said, "A local doctor, Bagicha Singh, has said that he visited the house of the victim on January 26 for her medical checkup and recommended a further medical scan."
But the victim's father, who is in Amritsar where the girl is admitted to a hospital, countered the SSP. "It was only after the gangrape that her health deteriorated. Bagicha Singh never examined her on January 26, and it was only Baksheesh, an RMP (registered medical practitioner) who was called by us, that too after the abduction and rape," he told HT over the phone.
The victim's mother had also said that it was Baksheesh who had examined the girl between January 29, when she first experienced bleeding and severe pain, and January 31. The mother had also told HT on Friday that the girl was raped repeatedly by the three accused over the past three months: "She had kept mum as the trio had threatened to eliminate our family."
The SSP, when asked why the mother's allegation was not taken into account, said she had not given the statement formally to the police.
HOLES IN PROBE?
After apparently waiting in vain for her to get better, it was only on February 6 that the family took the girl to a hospital in nearby Lohian, from where she was taken to Nakodar and then Jalandhar, before finally being referred to Amritsar the same night.
The father said the girl herself told the police at Lohian about the rape and also name the three men. Even the SSP admitted that doctors at Lohian hospital informed the police about the case as that of sexual assault.
But the police preferred not to register a case despite recording the statement of the victim at Lohian hospital, and finally lodged an FIR based on father's statement under sections 376-2G (gangrape) and 365 (abduction) of the IPC later in the day on February 6, only after she was admitted to the civil hospital at Jalandhar.
On the SSP's statement that the victim's father had initially named five men but later stuck to three, the father said, "It's a hollow claim. There were three men involved, and they were named by my daughter too in her statement."
Meanwhile, the father also told HT that some cops visited his family in the village on Saturday and threatened them against talking to the media.
But the SSP ruled out any such threat, and said that the investigation would be done in an impartial manner.
"Let the medical report of the victim confirm the allegation. We have sent reminders to the medical team," the SSP said.