I was molested by Army man, police forced me to change my statement: Handwara girl

The girl at the centre of recent mayhem in Handwara opens up about what made her give a different statement while she was in police detention

I was molested by Army man, police forced me to change my statement: Handwara girl

The girl who was at the centre of the recent mayhem in Handwara in Jammu and Kashmir said  she was molested by the Army man while on her way to home from the school. She made her statement at a press conference after her release from 27-day police custody.

The media interaction was organised by human rights group Coalition for Civil Society in Srinagar.

The incident, which happened on 12 April had triggered widespread protests, leading to the death of four youth and an elderly woman in Kashmir valley.

Earlier, in a video statement shot by the police, the girl had said she was molested by some local boys not by the army personnel.

“I was indeed assaulted by an army man at a public toilet in Handwara,” the girl told media persons in Srinagar on Monday. “After breaking free I ran out of the washroom where a crowd gathered."

Unlike in the police video, the girl was masked and flanked by her parents. She spoke at length about her time under police protection.

"I was humiliated. The cops spat at me and abused me. I was coerced to make a statement which exonerated the Army man and shift the  blame on to some local boys," she said adding that she was assured that the statement was confidential. "But after that I heard the video was circulating on social media.  My face was uncovered and now everybody recognises me".

The girl said that the police made her sign blank papers. “I was also made to write an application seeking police protection," she said. "They forced me to sign it. Thus the word was spread that my family voluntarily sought police protection.”

When asked why she had stood by her statement before the Chief Judicial Magistrate, the girl said she again did it under pressure.

“A policeman 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 (according to school records she was born in 1998). He pressured me to stick to the statement recorded in the video," the girl said. "He told us to tell the court that we were staying at a relative’s house and  not under police protection. 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.”

Narrating her experience at the police station, the girl said that a sub-inspector named Mohsin stormed into her room and hurled invectives at her. “I could read his name on his nameplate,” the girl said. “He spat at me and left”.

She said that the Munshi of the station also harassed her. “He asked me my name. But before I could utter it, he snatched my bag and recorded my name from the books” the girl said.  “Munshi also asked my father’s name. Then he took away my phone even though I said I wanted to contact my family members. He refused to return the phone.”