14 April 2016
Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society has been approached by the family of the minor girl in the Handwara sexual assault case for legal counsel and other support.
On 12 April 2016, a minor girl (aged 16) from Handwara had, as per reports, accused army personnel of sexual assault. Four persons have been killed to date by armed forces personnel following protests. On the same day, a video was released of the minor girl exonerating the armed forces of sexual assault. The identity of the victim is revealed through this video that appears to have been recorded by the police and then widely circulated by army and Indian media. The family of the girl state that she has been kept in police custody from 12 April to date. Last night, around 1 am, the father of the victim was called to the Handwara police station. He was accompanied by his brother. Since then his whereabouts are not known. The family has been denied access to both the minor girl and her father.
The detention of the minor girl and her father 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. Further, the manner in which the 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.
The family of the victim has appealed for immediate release of the minor girl and the father of the victim and has sought legal assistance. The State under the garb of law and order is ensuring that all access to the family of the victim is denied so as to ensure protection to the armed forces personnel and seek to further distract from the crimes that have been committed – from the sexual assault to the killings. Any suggestion that the State is seeking to “protect”’ the minor girl and family must be rejected in the circumstances of this case and the actions of the police. Any protection, if necessary, must be provided at the residence of the victim and not at the police station.
The minor girl and her father must be immediately released and allowed access to legal counsel. Government of Jammu and Kashmir must allow immediate and unhindered access for the legal counsel team of JKCCS to the victim and her family.
Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society