‘Sexually assaulted by soldier, abused and spat at by police in custody’

SRINAGAR: In a major twist in the Handwara molestation case, the victim on Monday revealed that she had been forced to record a false statement while in custody and had also been abused.
The 16 year old Handwara girl, whose alleged molestation bid sparked violent protests last month that left five persons dead, claimed she was “sexually assaulted by a soldier” on April 12 and later “abused at and humiliated” by the police during the 21-day long detention.
Speaking for the first time to the media in Srinagar, the victim made a U-turn from her earlier statement recorded before the Chief Judicial Magistrate on April wherein she blamed two local boys for the situation.
“On April 12, 2016 I was subject to a assault by an army man at a public washroom in Handwara,” the girl student told a press conference, hosted by a civil liberty group, Coalition of Cicil Societies (JKCCS) in Srinagar. “After I ran out of the bathroom, a crowd gathered.”
“I recognized a policeman named Mohammad Shafi Watali who began to drag me to the Handwara police station. This was against my will as I asked him to allow me to go to my home. But, he did not leave me and he verbally abused me. I was taken directly to the Handwara police station,” she alleged.
She was produced before the Munshi, Khursheed.
The girl, who was also flanked by her parents, said the Munshi asked my name. “When I did not respond, the Munshi reached into my bag and recorded my name from my school books. He also asked me for my father’s name which I provided.”
“I narrated the whole incident to police. After which they told me not give my original statement, they said that will be safe for my family. I told them that to lie is wrong and I won’t lie. There and then, one of the three policemen got up and slapped me and forced me to lie. I retaliated for a while and then I succumbed to their pressure and changed my statement,” said the victim.
The Munshi also took away my phone even though I said I wanted to contact my family members. He refused to return the phone to me
The girl said that around this time, a sub-inspector namely Mohsin stormed the room and verbally abused her. “He came into the room and I noticed his name on his nameplate. He spat on me and left,” the girl said.
Later, the girl said, three masked police men entered the room and asked me what happened. “I told them what the army soldier had done to me. They told me, in very harsh tone, that I should not continue with this allegation and that I should instead blame the local boys. One of them even slapped me when I was refusing to change my evidence,” the girl alleged.
“Later, SP Handwara, Ghulam Jeelani came and asked to me explain everything. “In distress and under pressure, I narrated what had happened while not revealing details regarding the army soldier. Jeelani Sahib then left the room and returned and told me he wanted to record my statement on his mobile phone. He promised not to make it public. Because of the pressure, and in light of being threatened by the policemen on what to say, I repeated my statement on video without putting any blame on the army and without mentioning what the army man had done to me outside the public toilet.”
The following morning, she said, a known sub-inspector Shafi alias Moulvi Sahib forcibly took her signatures on blank papers. “He also made me write an application seeking police protection and then forced me to sign it, thus spreading a words that my family voluntarily sought police protection.”
In the morning of April 16, 2016, the girl said, at around 9 am. she, her father and aunt were taken again to the Handwara police station.
“Here, policeman Moulvi Sahib informed me that my video was on the internet. He also told me and my father that we had to give a statement as per his instructions before the court. He pressured me to say that I was born in 1997. He pressured me to stick to the statement I had said in the recorded video. He told us to tell the court that we were staying in a relative’s house. My statement, and that of my father, before the court was therefore not a voluntary statement. When I gave my statement before the court my father was not allowed inside with me.”
The girl said she was kept against her will in the police station. “They made me sign blank papers. I can’t write in Urdu. They made me write in Urdu and took our signature,” she said.
The girl was in custody for 27 days and was released only after court intervention.
Her parents said she was pressured into changing her original version.
The teen complained that she was isolated by her classmates, who accused her of “suppressing reality.”
She said she will fight for her honor and for those who laid down their lives for her honor.
Handwara witnessed massive clashes between the police and residents on April 12 after the news of a girl being molested by an army soldier spread. The area was under curfew for a week.
Five people were killed in firing by government forces during the protests.

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