A 12-year-old girl, who claimed to be working as a domestic help at the house of BJP Mahila Morcha president Renu Thapar in Ludhiana, has accused her employer of physically torturing her for over two years.
In her statement before the court of Jaspreet Kaur, here, the girl revealed that she escaped from Thapar's house on Friday evening to reach Jalandhar, where her parents lived.
"I had been working as domestic help at Thapar's house for past over two years at a monthly salary of Rs. 600. Renu Thapar, her husband and son used to beat me up frequently for minor mistakes on my behalf. Twice I fled from the house, but my father forcibly handed over me back to Thapar against my wishes," she submitted.
"Once I approached the police at Ladowal to seek help, but the cops handed me over to influential Thapar," she alleged.
The court sent the girl to Nari Niketan after she refused to go with her parents.
The issue came to light, after a shopkeeper of Katehra Mohalla found the girl crying here on Friday evening and he approached area councillor Sushil Rinku for help.
"My family consoled her and offered food. Meanwhile, Thapar reached my place on being contacted over phone. Thapar tried to console the girl but the latter refused to accompany her. Then the matter was reported to the police. Assistant sub-inspector (ASI) Malkit Singh visited us and took the girl along to the police station at 11.30pm. Her statement was recorded and the girl was handed over to us at 2am," said Rinku.
"The police were unduly harassing the girl. The FIR should have been immediately registered against the employer, but the police failed to do so," Major Singh, a Congress leader, alleged.
Thapar feigned ignorance about the issue and denied having known to the girl. She also denied having visited Rinku's house for a compromise on Friday night. On why the girl was accusing her of torture, she evaded a direct reply and disconnected the call.
Punjab BJP president Kamal Sharma said that he was not aware of the controversy. "This is a serious matter. I will inquire into the matter and get back to you," he said.
The wrongs on police's part
The police took the girl to police station at 11.30 pm on Friday. A male ASI, Malkit Singh, recorded her statement in uniform in the absence of a woman cop. She was again called by SHO Rajinder Kumar (in uniform) next morning. ASI Parminder Kaur (in uniform) recorded her statement again.
Later, she was interviewed by the assistant commissioner of police, Ravinder Pal Singh Sandhu, again in the uniform.
The criminal procedure code bars a woman being taken to police station after sunset. Juvenile Justice (care and protection of children) Act states that a police officer should always be in plain clothes while dealing with children.
All basic amenities and food requirements of child should be taken care of by the police officer during the period child remains in his or her charge.
On the Punjab State Commission for Protection of Child Rights chairman Swaran Salaria's recommendations, the city police suspended ASI Malkit Singh, besides ordering an inquiry into SHO's conduct. "The home department was asked to take stern action against erring cops. We will put all the accused in child abuse case behind the bars irrespective of their political affiliations," Salaria asserted.