Handwara girl remains in ‘police detention’, lawyers allege intimidation
Jammu & Kashmir State Commission for Women (SCW) chairperson Nayeema Mehjoor will on Wednesday meet a girl who was allegedly assaulted in Handwara earlier this month, giving rise to violent protests that took five lives. The girl had reportedly written a letter alleging “intimidation by police” to Mehjoor on Monday.
Though protesters alleged that the girl was molested by an Army soldier, she told the chief judicial magistrate that two boys from the area were responsible. Her kin and well-wishers dismissed the statement, claiming that it had come under pressure from the police.
The girl’s lawyers have said she will “continue to remain in police custody for the time being”.
Earlier on Tuesday, a division bench of the Jammu and Kashmir high court heard a petition by the girl’s mother, seeking her immediate release. The plea was clubbed with a PIL filed on the same lines by the Bar Association.
Alleging that the girl was being kept under “detention” and her “personal space was being violated”, the Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS) – which is providing legal aid to the girl and her family – said in a statement, “Beyond the important legal issues, the main thrust of arguments to be advanced today was that the minor girl be set free and out of oppressive police custody immediately. It was to be argued that other issues could be dealt with subsequently.”
JKCCS spokesperson Khurram Parvez said that though Parvez Imroz – the girl’s lawyer – tried submitting the letter written by her to Mehjoor, he was directed to formally file it with the registry. The court will next hear the matter on May 2.
Mehjoor told HT that she would look into the circumstances surrounding the girl’s detention when she meets her on Wednesday. The SCW chairperson also said she was waiting for the police to reveal who had shot the video that showed her blaming “some local boys”. The girl’s face was shown in the video.
“She told me last week that the video was shot by a policeman, who told her it would not be made public. But later, the same video was released by the Army,” Mehjoor said.
Last week, the high court had directed the Handwara superintendent of police to let the girl meet her mother and lawyers.
The JKCCS has also alleged that police stopped the girl from leaving Zachaldara to present herself before the high court in Srinagar. The Handwara police, however, countered the allegation. A senior officer told HT that the police were simply protecting the girl, and not restricting her from going anywhere. “We don’t even enter the house where she stays,” he said.
The girl has been put up at an undisclosed location near Zachaldara. While the JKCCS has termed it as “unlawful detention”, the state continues to claim that she was staying at a relative’s house “without any restrictions”.