Five days after he was booked for allegedly attempting to rape a 15-year-old Dalit girl, Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader Hardeep Singh was arrested by the police in Dhindsa village of Moonak subdivision in Punjab’s Sangrur district on Tuesday. Hardeep, a photographer by vocation, is circle in-charge of the party, leading its activities in Lehragaga and neighbouring areas.
Senior superintendent of police (SSP) Pritpal Singh Thind said, “On a tip-off, Hardeep was arrested from Dhindsa village at 8.45 am. During interrogation he said he is an active leader of the AAP and has close relations with AAP national convener and Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal and senior leader Sanjay Singh.”
The alleged rape attempt took place on September 9, when the 15-year-old, Class-9 student and her younger sister had gone to Hardeep’s shop to get photographed. She told the police in her statement that while her sister was waiting outside the darkroom of the studio, Hardeep locked the room from inside and tried to rape her. When she screamed, her sister unsuccessfully tried to open the door, it is reported. “Later, the victim’s sister shouted after which people nearby gathered and the their father also arrived on the scene. While they tried to break open the door, Hardeep himself opened the door and pushed people away to escape,” the complaint says.
But Hardeep has claimed has been framed under a “political conspiracy”. “All I said to her was to keep her shoulders in the correct position for the photograph, but she has alleged that I tried to rape her. The girls are my relatives. I cannot even imagine doing such an inhuman act,” he has said.
On why he escaped, he said he was scared that if the girl called the cops they would beat him up brutally. “The girl registered the case when the sarpanch of the village asked her to, because he wanted to frame me. I will cooperate with the police and be proven innocent,” he has added.
He has been charged under sections 376/511 (attempt to rape), 354B (using criminal force to woman with intent to disrobe) and 342 (wrongful confinement) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and also under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POSCO) Act.