Two women and a teenager, all residents of Subhash Mohalla in northeast Delhi’s North Ghonda neighbourhood, accused officials of Delhi’s Bhajanpura police station of beating and sexually assaulting them in the station premises on the night of 8 August. That evening, a group of around ten women—including Shaheen Khan, Shanno, and the latter’s 17-year-old daughter—visited the police station to seek the registration of a first-information report against offences identified in a complaint they had filed two days earlier. As the other women waited in the compound, the three of them went inside the station and demanded an FIR. But the police refused and attacked them, the trio told us. All of them, including the minor, said that they were violently and repeatedly slapped, manhandled and threatened, and further accused the police officials of sexual assault—charges that the Delhi Police denied. Ashok Sharma, the Bhajanpura station-house officer, said he informed the women that an FIR could only be registered after an enquiry, and dismissed all allegations of violence at the station.
“I saw this, I was there,” Khan said. “They put their hands on the girl’s chest, they misbehaved with her and Shanno. They even tore Shanno’s clothes over here,” she added, pointing to her collar bone. Her own neck had a prominent scratch mark below it. We spoke to the three of them late on the night intervening 8 and 9 August. Shanno’s kurta was still torn at the time. She broke into tears at multiple points while speaking to us. After one such occasion, she took a deep breath to compose herself and said that policemen pulled her daughter by her hair and “tried to drag her into a dark corner.” Pointing to her own chest, she added in between sobs, “Meri beti ko galat-galat jaga haath lagaya”—They touched my daughter in wrong places. Her daughter repeated the same. “They misbehaved with us a lot—with me, my mother and another woman who was with us,” the 17-year-old said. “They misbehaved with us so much, I can’t tell you.”
The women had gone to the police station in relation to an incident that took place on the intervening night of 5 and 6 August. At around 1 am that night, as part of their celebrations over the stone-laying ceremony of the Ram temple at Ayodhya that had taken place earlier in the day, a group of Hindu residents of the area roamed the streets hailing the development and raising communal slogans. “They came on the night of 5 August, challenging us by raising slogans of ‘Jai Shri Ram,’ and many even hurled abuses, asking the Muslims to leave the neighbourhood,” Salim, Shanno’s husband, told us. “This is what the complaint was all about, for which they were not ready to register the FIR. We live in a state of panic every day and night now.” Shanno has previously filed a complaint relating to attacks, looting and arson she witnessed in Delhi during the February violence, and she said her family had faced attacks in relation to this in June this year.
As noted in a Newslaundry report about the incident, in the lane number 2 of Subhash Mohalla, where Khan resides, a narrow road separates the Muslim and the Hindu households. Following the violence that swept northeast Delhi in February, the Delhi Police had installed a gate at the entrance to the Muslim side of the lane. During the Ram temple celebrations, the Hindu group had tied flags of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh on the gate. “We even saw them tie a bijli bomb”—a loud firecracker—“on the lock of the gate of a street that leads to the mosque,” Salim said.
On 6 August, a group of women residents had filed a complaint about this incident at the Bhajanpura police station, but, according to Khan, the police did not formally record it—that is, they did not provide a signed copy of the complaint to acknowledge its receipt. The women’s lawyer, Mehmood Pracha, told us that his office repeatedly called the police station the next day to ask why the women’s complaint had not been accepted. According to Khan, the police ultimately called her on the morning of 8 August and asked the women to come to the station with a copy of her complaint. But Pracha’s office only sent the complaint by 7 pm, she said, and after printing it the group of women reached Bhajanpura police station only at 9 pm that night. “It was urgent for us, the FIR had to be produced in the court the coming Monday,” Shanno said, referring to 10 August. “Our lawyers have been asking us to get it from the police station for the same to be produced in court.” At the Bhajanpura station, the police gave the women a signed copy of the complaint, with the entry number recorded in the station’s daily diary, but declined to register an FIR against the complaint.