Why a minor who accused the Haryana police of custodial rape is still held in state custody

15 January 2021
On 9 October, student organisations and activist groups such as the Chhatra Ekta Manch, the Chhatra Abhibhavak Sangh and the Valmiki Sabha organised a protest march in Haryana's Butana village. The protesters demanded the arrest of the accused police officials and the immediate release of the young women from custody.
Courtesy Manisha/ Chhatra Ekta Manch
On 9 October, student organisations and activist groups such as the Chhatra Ekta Manch, the Chhatra Abhibhavak Sangh and the Valmiki Sabha organised a protest march in Haryana's Butana village. The protesters demanded the arrest of the accused police officials and the immediate release of the young women from custody.
Courtesy Manisha/ Chhatra Ekta Manch

It has been over five months since 40-year-old Kavita filed a complaint against members of the Haryana Police, accusing them of raping her daughter, who was 17 years old at the time, in police custody. The young woman faces charges of involvement in the murder of two police officials, and has been held in state custody since July, first in Karnal jail and then at a juvenile observation home. While the police are yet to take any action against the rape accused, the Haryana judiciary has twice denied bail to the young woman. A juvenile justice board and a district court both denied bail claiming that releasing the young woman to her parents would expose her to “moral danger.”

 Kavita, a Dalit woman from Butana village in Sonipat district, said that her daughter sustained severe physical injuries and mental trauma because of the gang rape. “If they only let her out on bail, I can look after her and make her feel safe,” Kavita said. “God knows how they treat her in that jail.” Despite being a minor at the time of the incident, Kavita’s daughter was lodged in Haryana’s Karnal jail from 6 July until late September, along with her 20-year-old cousin. The 17-year-old was later shifted to an observation home in Karnal.

 On 18 July, while the minor was still in Karnal jail, Kavita visited her. Kavita recalled it vividly. She told me that her daughter leaned against the wall for support and was hunched over because it was too painful to stand up straight. “Her arms were covered in bruises. Whatever part of her bare skin I could see looked blue,” Kavita said. She had gone to the jail three days prior to this meeting, on 15 July, and the jail officials had informed Kavita that her daughter had been sent for a medical check-up. “They didn’t tell me why she was sick or injured or what had happened to her. They just told me to come back later,” Kavita said. On the morning of 18 July, Kavita’s daughter told her what had occurred earlier that month, between 2 and 6 July, while she and her 20-year-old cousin had been in police custody.

 On 2 July, Kavita contacted officials of the Baroda police station to present her daughter and her 20-year-old niece before them. The Baroda police station oversees the functioning of a number of police posts including the one in Butana. The police had been looking for the young women in connection with the murders of two personnel from the Butana police station—Ravinder Kumar, a constable, and Kaptan Singh, a special police officer. Apart from Kavita’s daughter and niece, four men were also accused in the murder case. On 1 July, the day after the alleged murder, the Haryana Police killed one of the accused—Amit Kumar, a resident of Jind village—in an encounter.

 The sequence of events which transpired on the night of the murders remain unclear. The young woman’s narrative differs from the police version. A petition filed in the Punjab and Haryana High Court seeking a medical examination of the young woman describes the series of events leading up to her ordeal. The petition, filed by Rajvinder Singh Bains, a Chandigarh-based advocate who is representing Kavita, states that her daughter and niece were not involved in the murders, and have been falsely implicated.

Chahat Rana is a reporting fellow at The Caravan. 

Keywords: Haryana custodial violence rape Sexual Assault sexual harassment
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