Concerns raised over minor girl allegedly being held (Image via NDTV)
15 April 2016
On 14 April 2016, the mother of the 16 year old minor girl, who has alleged sexual assault by the armed forces personnel of 21 RR, approached JKCCS for urgent and immediate legal assistance. Both the minor girl and aunt, and her father are under police custody since 12 April and 14 April respectively. The mother seeks that both be immediately released and allowed to return to their residence. The mother of the minor girl fears that her family members, particularly her 16 year old daughter, are under pressure to make false statements. Already a video has been released and circulated by the army that reveals her identity and seeks to exonerate the army of sexual assault. The mother of minor girl seeks that investigations in this case be done as per the law with full care and consideration being provided to the fact that the complainant is a minor girl.
The legal team of JKCCS led by Adv. Parvez Imroz reached the outskirts of Handwara town by around 10:30 am this morning. The team sought to meet the mother of the minor girl and following consultations approach the High Court, Srinagar bench, by the close of the day. Besides consultations on the case, relevant signatures on court documents needed to be taken.
A police team headed by SHO, Kralgund refused to allow the team beyond Ganapora village. State authorities when contacted by telephone refused to facilitate in the instant case and/or asked the team to contact other authorities. DIG, North Kashmir Range, Uttam Chand, while confirming that the girl, her father and aunt are in the protective custody of the police, stated that no exception could be made and access to the house of the girl for meeting her mother cannot be provided. JKCCS submitted that in special circumstances the Government does give curfew passes to the people and therefore it must be given atleast to the mother of the victim to travel to legal team waiting at the outskirts of Handwara. He asked us to contact his seniors and also that he will talk to the concerned. JKCCS then contacted IGP Kashmir, Javed Mujtaba Geelani who asked the team to contact the Deputy Commissioner, Kupwara for permission and stated that the police had no power to allow access. After this, JKCCS contacted Abdul Haq Khan, the Minister of Law in Jammu and Kashmir and also at present the incharge minister deputed by the government in Kupwara district to deal with the present situation. Abdul Haq Khan expressed his inability to interfere in the law and order tasks of the Police and civil administration. JKCCS representative told him that does the government not consider providing access to justice to the family of the victim as a priority on which he informed the team that the priority of the government at this stage is restoration of the law. Meanwhile, Deputy Commissioner, Kupwara chose not to receive the numerous phone calls made.
Section 144 Cr.P.C. is not intended to prevent civilians from exercising their legal rights particularly when violations of fundamental rights [for example the illegal detention of the minor girl and her father] are involved. A meeting between the mother of the minor girl and her lawyers could have been facilitated by the government without any adverse consequences. The government has, once again, prioritized their need for control on the people over fundamental and human rights. The refusal to allow the JKCCS team to visit the family of the victim is aimed at prolonging the illegal detention of the girl, her father and her aunt.
The Jammu and Kashmir government through its conduct in Handwara killings and sexual violence allegation has already exposed itself and reaffirmed its priority of control over civil liberties and law. It is clear that a change in government does not change the state of affairs on ground in Jammu and Kashmir.
Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society
Carol Anne Grayson is an independent writer/researcher on global health/human rights/WOT and is Executive Producer of the Oscar nominated, Incident in New Baghdad. She is a Registered Mental Nurse with a Masters in Gender Culture and Development. Carol was awarded the ESRC, Michael Young Prize for Research 2009, and the COTT ‘Action = Life’ Human Rights Award’ for “upholding truth and justice”. She is also a survivor of US “collateral damage”.