Outcry Over ‘Detained’ Handwara Girl Intensifies

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Srinagar:  A‘Solidarity Group’ comprising of independent researchers, professionals, lawyers, students and journalist Wednesday staged a peaceful protest here urging the Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti to pay immediate attention towards the grave and serious allegation of sexual assault of the minor girl and the consequent ill treatment of the victim and her family members in wrongful police detention.
The protesters who assembled in Press Enclave here were carrying placards seeking ‘end impunity to armed forces in Kashmir’, ‘stop sexual harassment,’ ‘stringent punishment to guilty armed forces’, and ‘repeal AFSPA to stop innocent killings.’
Pertinently, five civilians, including a 56-year-old woman, were killed and dozens others injured in police and Army firing after protests broke out against the alleged molestation of a schoolgirl by an Army man in Handwara on 12 April this month.
The peaceful protesters said that the detention of the minor girl and her family members are outside the powers of the State and appears to be an attempt to further pressurize the family to withdraw all allegations against the armed forces. They said that the manner in which video has been recorded and then circulated is a gross violation of the special protections afforded to minors particularly during investigation of sexual assault cases. “The actions of the police and the army would necessarily invite criminal prosecution if investigated,” they said.
The protesters told local news agency that they stand in solidarity with the girl and all other women who face threat of sexual violence at the hands of Indian armed forces and further police intimidation.
While demanding immediate release of the minor girl and her family members from police custody, the protesters demanded that the High Court orders should be implemented regarding the constitution of the Juvenile Justice Board in the State and the Education Minister should take immediate steps to ensure that girl students in all government and private schools across Jammu and Kashmir have access to toilet facilities.
They asked the government to investigate and prosecute all the police personnel responsible for ‘abuse and harassment’ of the minor girl in their custody. “Any trial of the Army and police personnel in the alleged sexual assault and subsequent killing be held in a civilian court in a transparent and open manner,” the protesters demanded.

Protests spill over to Delhi
New Delhi: Demanding immediate release of the Handwara girl from ‘illegal’ police custody, All India Students Association (AISA) Wednesday staged a protest at Sabarmati Dhaba in Union Capital New Delhi. 
The students who also organized a candle march termed the detention of North Kashmir’s Handwara girl as illegal and stated that government intentionally did not give her access to the outside world just to keep a lid on the truth.
The peaceful protesters set the effigy of BJP-PDP coalition government on fire. The protest was led by Sucheta De National President, AISA and Sandeep Saurav National General Secretary of the Association.
Spokesperson AISA said that since 12th April, the minor girl has been in illegal police custody after she complained of molestation by some armed forces personnel, and the local people protested against this. “The child was forced to give a false testimony exonerating her molesters, the testimony was circulated over YouTube, revealing her identity to the entire world. Her mother was not allowed to speak to the Press about the issue. She continues to be in illegal detention, without any access to rights groups or child support organization.”
“Her access to her family and legal team has not only been prevented but also controlled by the state authorities. The continued detention of the minor girl and her family members violates their civil liberty and basic rights too. The continued police detention also means a threat to her physical and psychological well being,” the spokesperson said adding that at present the minor girl and her family members are in police detention at an undisclosed location. “We demand the immediate release of the girl and her family members from police custody and their unhindered access to the legal help.
Earlier, AISA held a protest demonstration at Jantar Mantar on Friday against the killings and the mishandling of the allegations of molestation. AISA’s MANUU unit also held a protest demonstration on the same day outside the MANUU, Hyderabad campus gate. 

Candle light protests held
SRINAGAR: All Jammu and Kashmir Students Union (AJKSU) Wednesday evening organized a candle light protests against the “day-to-day” harassment of Kashmiri students in different colleges and universities outside the Kashmir and recent civilian killings in North Kashmir.
Scores of students, who claimed to be apolitical, expressed deep shock over the spate of killings following the 12th April incident in Handwara and Kupwara.
The protesting students said that after killing the innocent civilians, the government indulged in “shameful character assassination” of the minor girl, where a video of doubtful authenticity was circulated all over the internet by the J&K Police, in order to prove that the accusations of molestation are false.
“Now we are learning that the minor girl and her father have been detained. All of this is deeply troubling.”
“First, the police have no right to make public the identity or the statement of the victim in a molestation case, that too of a minor girl. Uploading and circulating her video is another level of brazen illegality. Second, we don’t know if the young girl has given the statement under any duress or not. Third, even if her statement is true, the Army still had no right to fire at and murder unarmed civilians expressing outrage. Further, we have learnt that the minor girl and her father have been detained and no access to them is being allowed for support groups. We demand that human rights and civil society groups be allowed to meet the child and her father, so that they can have access to justice and support,” the protesting students said.
The students said that outside state students are welcome here provided they don’t hurt the sentiments of the people here. “Kashmir is an unresolved issue that needs to be addressed. The outside students have no right to offend the local sentiments here,” they said.
Criticizing New Delhi based media for the biased and one-sided reportage, the protesting students said that media houses in India are not doing a service to the nation but they are misleading the one billion people of India and keeping them in dark about the stark realities of Kashmir.

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