The Kashmiri schoolgirl, whose alleged molestation by an Army soldier on Tuesday triggered massive protests in Handwara in the northern part of the valley, exonerated the Army of any wrongdoing in a video statement, claiming instead that a local boy had slapped her. However, However, people in the valley, including her mother on Saturday, rejected her words, claiming they were given under duress. Meanwhile, the protests spread across Handwara and Kupwara, leading to the death of five people.
A day after the incident, the Army released a video in which the girl said she had used the washroom inside an Army bunker in Handwara, 75 km north of Srinagar, but she “did not see anyone in the washroom”, thus dismissing the idea that she had been molested. She further accused a local boy of rumour-mongering that led to people assembling in the area and demanding that she lodge a complaint against the Army. The boy, the girl alleged, asked her “Have all Kashmiris died?” alluding that she had compromised herself inside the Army bunker.
“I was shocked at what he was saying and at the same time a lot of people assembled and they told me to move towards the police station. I told them I will go by myself to the police station. As I saw a policeman there, I said I will go with him. I told the student to return my schoolbag but he didn’t. Then he abused me. I didn’t see anyone there (in the washroom),” she said.
But the minor girl’s clarification did not pacify the locals who are questioning her detention in the police station. The mother of the girl claimed to the media on Saturday that her husband and daughter were illegally detained by the police and sought their release. She also claimed that the police forced her daughter to give a statement blaming a local boy instead of an Army jawan for the incident. The Jammu and Kashmir High Court on Saturday directed the police not to force the father and aunt of the girl to give any statements while in “detention” and has questioned the police over the continued “detention” of the girl along with her relatives. The next hearing of the case has been slated for Wednesday.
Rights groups too have questioned the “detention”, with Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Societies (JKSCCS) alleging on Friday that the legal team dispatched from Srinagar to provide legal aid to the girl and her family in Handwara was denied access to them by the police.
Friday witnessed widespread protests in entire Kupwara district and different parts of Srinagar, Ganderbal, Kangan, Budgam, Bijbehara, Anantnag and other districts. Reports said that at Natnusa in the Kupwara district, police and security forces opened fire on a mob in which four persons received bullet injuries and have been shifted to hospital. Police said that hundreds of people have been injured including 150 J&K policemen in different street battles between men-in-uniform and the protesters.
The authorities have put curbs on the social media sites so that mischief mongers don’t get an opportunity to fan trouble. Police has arrested all the separatist leaders and no Friday prayers were allowed in the Jamia Masjid of Srinagar as most of downtown remained under curfew for the second consecutive day.
Meanwhile, an 18-year-old boy was killed in firing by the nearby Army camp at Natnusa, Kupwara on Friday. Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti along with her ministerial colleagues reached Kupwara to assess the situation. A curfew was enforced on Saturday in entire Kupwara district and some parts of Srinagar. The government has suspended an ASI of J&K police for allegedly opening fire on the protesters in Handwara. The CM earlier met Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar asking him for time-bound probe by the Army to fix responsibility in the Handwara killings.