Dhule riots: ‘Cops allowed minor incident to escalate into communal clash’


Fact Finding Report By Concerned Citizens

19 January, 2013

Dhule has been in news for past 10 days. It has been reported in the media that, a small altercation in Dhule led to an event leading to violence between Hindus and Muslims. As such death of 6 innocent youth and injuries to several more and massive loss of properties, burning of houses has taken place. The worst part of the episode is that all this has taken place with police force being very much around. Contrary to official reports, the people in the area stated that the behavior of police was very biased against the Muslim minorities. All the youth who died were Muslims. Most of the houses which were burnt belonged to the Muslims.

In the light of the disturbing reports and communications from the local activists we decided that a citizen fact finding committee should visit the Dhule, to investigate and present the facts objectively.

The citizens Fact Finding Committee consisting, of Shabnam Hashmi- social activist ,ANHAD Delhi, Prof Ram Puniyani of All India Secular Forum, Prof Apoorvanand of Delhi University, Adv Nihalsing B Rathod- Human Rights Law Network, Manan Trivedi, Dev Desai, Tanvi Soni, Arma from ANHAD, Gujarat and Azhar from Jalgaon, visited Dhule on 13th and 14th January 2013.

The Committee met several social, religious and political activists, government officials including the district magistrate, victims, families of the deceased and injured, and the people from different walks of life. It also visited the spot of the incident; the affected areas and the Hospitals on 14th January 2013. The committee procured the recordings of the violence which had taken place in the city. This report is based on the testimonies of these people, the records from the hospitals and its own observation in the area where houses have been burnt.

The committee found that the affected area, which was constantly referred as minority area was barricaded to separate it from the Hindu dominated areas. We found temporary police posts on the other side of the barricades (Hindu Majority area). We were told that the curfew which was enforced after the violence; was now relaxed from 9am to 5pm. Police did not prevent people from crossing the barricades from either side. Outwardly life looked normal. We were told that curfew had affected the livelihood of people who worked in the power looms which is the main source of living for majority of the Muslims as work had to be stopped at 5 in the evening. In normal times the power looms kept working round the clock. We also found that even in normal times the area also suffered from huge load shedding, making it impossible for the power looms to work. The stoppage of work is leading to the disruption of life.

There were differing versions of the cause of violence on 6 January. We were told that it was largely a result of the insensitive handing of a minor quarrel by the police. It was clear from the statements of both Hindus and Muslims that tension could have been diffused easily had police taken proper steps to diffuse the tension, which was building up. It did not intervene and told the people to settle the dispute by themselves. The police allowed crowds to assemble from both sides. One can see from the recordings that mobs which assembled started confronting each other with stones. We were also told that the first incidence took place at around 2 to 2.15 pm and mobs from both sides started assembling soon after that. It is clear that both Hindus and Muslims had indulged in stone throwing. What is perplexing is that the police decided to move into the Muslims areas with Hindu mob behind them. Police started firing indiscriminately at Muslims.

As per the testimony of victims and eyewitnesses the police did not make any primary effort to disperse the crowds. It did not use public address system to alert the crowd, nor did it use lathi or teargas shells before going for firing. The residents felt very aggrieved that the police resorted to firing in response to stone throwing. It was reported that the firing lasted for more than two hours and was stopped around 6.30 PM. This point was confirmed by the District Magistrate.

The police firing was intended not to disperse the mob. All the bullet injuries are above the knee, in the abdomen, chest, neck, back and face. The attitude of the police against Muslims is also evident from the recordings as they are found pounding on the motorcycles in the curfew hours when there was nobody on the streets. Media reported and District Collector told us that the police had no option but to open fire as they were attacked with lethal chemicals and many of them suffered grievous injuries when they were trying to control the mobs. This claim is not supported by the Civil hospital record which describes the injuries suffered by the police personnel as minor who were discharged after first aid and there are just a very few cases of minor burn injuries..

Forty two people suffered bullet injuries, six died. Legs of two of the injured had to be amputated. None of the injured went to the civil hospital. We were told that the Muslims avoid going to civil hospital due to their experience of experience of the 2008 riots. In 2008 Muslims were attacked by Hindus when they tried to go to the civil hospital as it falls in a Hindu dominated locality. Due to the experience of 2008 this time, all the injured were taken to private hospitals.

It was reported that none of the injured was taken to the hospital by the police. We were also told by the relatives of those killed that they were not allowed to lodge FIRs. They were told that the deceased had already been made accused and were treated as rioters. The injured have not been able to muster courage to file FIRs, nor have the owners of the damaged property been able to do so.

More than 35 Muslim houses were looted, burnt and destroyed. Destruction of these houses was complete. All of it seems to have been done with clinical precision. We also found four Hindu households burnt, one of them burnt totally. While Muslims are ready to name the attackers, Hindus told us that they did not want to name anybody although they know the attackers.

The looting, burning and destruction of Muslim houses was done by mobs under the protection of the police. In one of the recordings, a senior police officer is seen exhorting the mobs to move forward and attack. The police is also seen standing silently while houses are being burnt. What the police did was to drive away the Muslims by firing, leaving their houses unprotected and vulnerable.

It was also reported that the area of incident and firing was cleaned with water the very next day without any Panchnama having been made.

We found no evidence of relief being provided to the uprooted families who had to flee bare handed from their houses. The DM told us that they were provided with ration through NGOs but was unable to explain how the ration was supposed to be cooked as the victims had no utensils with them to cook it. He also found it natural and sufficient that they were being taken care of by the community-fellows and there was no special need for administration to pitch in.

The fact that when our committee visited the area neither the chief minister, nor the home minister felt it necessary to pay a visit to Dhule in the wake of this violence. This fact has made the Muslims very bitter. Several calls to offices of the CM and HM for an appointment by the Fact Finding Committee yielded no results. Muslims feel uncared for and left to fend for themselves. The announcement by a section of the business community, engineers and lawyers that the police action should not be investigated has also made them wary. More than compensation, they want justice to be done and with these threats they feel that justice might be compromised. The political process of confidence building is absent leaving the field open for all kinds to forces to fill the void. It should be a matter of concern that since 2008, this has been the third major violence and Muslims feel that they are being hounded by the police. The fact, as reported by many; that the constables have not been transferred for more than fifteen years is also to be noted. It is evident that the police is biased against the Muslims and all minds of anti-Muslim stereotypes impact their mindset and action.

Dhule, despite ‘only’ six deaths is a mirror to the nation and our response would also show whether there exists a social, civil and political resolve to protect the constitutional rights of minorities in India or not.

FINDINGS:

1. This violence could have been prevented, had the police acted in time.

2. While stone pelting was done by members of both the communities, the police action was selective and directed against Muslims only.

3. The police did not follow the prescribed protocol to control the mob. Police firing was excessive and was done with an intent to kill.

4. All bullets were above the knee, majority of the bullets were above the waist, many of them in the chest, neck and face. All six deaths were because of the police firing.

5. Majority of the victims of the police firing were left unattended by the police and were taken to hospitals by friends.

6. 159 police personnel were taken to the hospital out of which only 18 were admitted is evident from the record of the civil hospital (attached with this report). All the injuries suffered by the police were minor in nature due to stone pelting.

7. The burning and looting of Muslim household and shops was done by the Hindu mobs in presence of the police personnel and killings were done by the police. From the video footage obtained by us it is clear that Police also indulged in burning Muslim houses and destroying their property.

8. Fire Brigade was not allowed to come to the Muslim locality to douse the fire.

9. No relief camps were set up for those Muslims and Hindus who lost their houses (approximately 40 Muslim families and 4 Hindu families), no immediate relief provided by the State. Some food grains were distributed by the Red Cross.

10. The victims were threatened when they tried to register FIRs and no FIRs were registered.

DEMANDS

1. IMMEDIATE COMMISSIONING OF JUDICIAL ENQUIRY INTO THE WHOLE INCIDENT OF JANUARY 6, 2013 IN DHULE, MAHARASHTRA WITH ESPECIAL FOCUS ON ROLE OF THE POLICE.

2. SUSPENSION OF THE DM , SP AND OTHER OFFICERS RESPONSIBLE FOR THEIR ACTS OF OMMISSION AND COMMISSION WITH IMMEDIATE EFFECT

3. ANNOUNCEMENTOF RELIEF AND REHABILITATION PACKAGE INCLUDING THE OPENING OF A RELIEF CAMP IMMEDIATELY FOR THOSE WHOSE
HOUSES HAVE BEEN UPROOTED (25 LAKHS TO THE NEXT OF KIN OF THOSE KILLED, 15 LAKHS FOR THOSE DISABLED FOR LIFE, 10 LAKHS FOR THOSE INJURED WITH POLICE BULLETS, SUITABLE COMPENSATION TO THOSE WHOSE HOUSES, PROPERTY, BUSINESS HAS BEEN BURNT, LOOTED, DESTROYED AFTER ASSESSMENT BY A COMPETENT AGENCY ALONG WITH MEMBERS OF CIVIL SOCIETY AND NGOS).

4. PROSECUTION OF ALL THOSE POLICEMEN WHO ARE INVOLVED IN KILLING PEOPLE AND DESTROYING THEIR PROPERTY.

5. GOVERNMENT JOB TO ONE PERSON IN THE FAMILY OF THOSE KILLED / disabled for life IN POLICE BULLETS.

6. IMMEDIATE LODGING OF FIRs IN ALL CASES OF DEATH, INJURED, PROPERTY LOSS ETC.

7. IMPLEMENTATION OF TRANSFERPOLICY FOR THE POLICEPERSONNALE WHICH HAS BEENTOTALLY DISREGARDED IN DHULE.

8. ESTABLISHMENT OF AN EXTENTION CENTRE OF THE GOVERNMENTHOSPITAL WITH ALL FACILITIES IN THE MUSLIM DOMINATED AREA.

9. LIFTING OF CURFEW WITH IMMEDIATE EFFECT AND RESUMPTION OF NORMAL WORKING HOURS ESPECIALLY IN POWER LOOM SECTOR.

10. SETTING UP OF A COMMITTEE TO STUDY THE DEVELOPMENT NEEDS OF THE CITY INCLUDING JOB OPPORTUNITIES FOR YOUTH.

11. IMMEDIATE STEPS TO BE TAKEN TO DE-TOXIFY THE MINDSETS OF THE POLICE AT THE STATE LEVEL, PROGRAMMES TO SENSITISE THEM ON CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS, DEMOCRACY, SECULaRALISM.

12. TO INVITE NATIONAL NGOS WORKING ON COMMUNAL HARMONY TO HELP SET UP A STRUCTURE AT THE LEVEL OF MOHALLAS FOR REGULARINTERACTION OF LOCAL PEOPLE ANDLEADERS OF ALL COMMUNITIES, FORMATION OF MOHALLA COMMITTEES.

 

 

Dhule riots: 'Cops allowed minor incident to escalate into communal clash'
New Delhi: The “communalism” of the “State machinery” allowed to escalate the communal violence in Dhule town of Maharashtra, alleged activists during a press conference here on Friday. The local police “systematically targeted Muslims” during the January 6 riots, in which six people were killed, they said.
A fact finding team comprising — rights activist Shabnam Hashmi from ANHAD, Dr Ram Puniyani of All India Secular Forum, Professor Apoorva Anand of Delhi University, Advocate Nihalsing Rathod of Human Rights Law Network and several others — visited the town to investigate the violence, the third in the region since 2008.
According to the interim report of the fact-finding team, the police allowed a minor incident to escalate into a riot-like situation. “They intervened very late. And when they did, they targeted only Muslims,” said Shabnam Hashmi.
As per testimonies collected by the team, the incident was triggered after a Muslim auto driver was beaten by the owner of an eatery in Macchi Bazar. “When the driver went to the police station to file a complaint, the officials were hostile and did not register his complaint, following which a mob gathered and people started pelting stones,” said Hashmi. “It was not a Hindu-Muslim issue, but the police only let the violence escalate,” she said.
The activists alleged connivance by the State machinery in the escalation of violence. “Why did it take the Chief Minister and the Home Minister nine days to visit the victims and order a judicial inquiry? There is a great sense of alienation and frustration among the Muslim community due to the callous response of the State,” Prof Apoorvanand said.
He said that the locals were afraid to even file a case. In the rare event of some victims gathering the courage to act, they were told by the police that a case had already been registered naming them as the accused and they could not, therefore, file a case.
He said fear within the community was so palpable that the victims refused to go to the civil hospital because riot victims in 2008 were allegedly beaten and driven away by some members of the majority community.
“The Dhule incident mirrors our society. If it is not taken seriously, the country will face a very severe struggle,” said Apoorvanand.
Speaking on this occasion, Dr Ram Puniyani said, “The incident shows the communalisation of the State machinery. The police launched an inhuman, one-sided attack on the members of the minority community.”
H said, “A total of 151 police personnel were taken to the hospital on January 6 of which 133 were discharged immediately, and all cases were described as minor.”
“When we checked the medical records of the victims, we noticed that the bullet injuries were above the waist in 90 percent of the cases. The police did not aim to disperse the crowd. It was targeted killing,” said Dr Puniyani.
“It is time to put the police in the psychiatric couch to understand what makes them brutally attack the minorities,” said film director Mahesh Bhatt. “The mindset of the entire police force is contaminated and reflects a fascist attitude,” he said.

 

 

#India- To hell with modesty- #Vaw #Law #Patriarchy


TO HELL WITH MODESTY

The vocabulary of sexual assault framed in the 19th century still persists in the IPC

KIM ARORA TIMES NEWS NETWORK , Jan 19,2013

Language is seldom value-neutral. It is more like a looking glass that shapes perceptions, creates moral codes and tells us who we are and what we stand for or against. The vocabulary of sexual assault, as laid down in the Indian Penal Code and used in the courtroom, is no exception. Not only does it betray a lack of empathy for the victim but also shows distinct gender insensitivity and the influence of patriarchy.
Take for instance the use of the word, modesty, in legal parlance. Section 354 of the IPC criminalises “assault or criminal force to woman with intent to outrage her modesty.” The Oxford English Dictionary (2005) defines modesty as “dressing or behaving so as to avoid impropriety or indecency, especially to avoid attracting sexual attention”. In other words, any woman dressed “immodestly” is part of the problem because she seems to be attracting attention. Incidentally, the word “modesty” does not appear in the law specifically pertaining to peno-vaginal penetrative sexual assault, but in those concerned with molestation and sexual harassment. Section 509 of the IPC penalises “Word, gesture or act intended to insult the modesty of a woman.”
Activist lawyer Madhu Mehra of Partners for Law in Development (PLD) insists that “language is not an innocent side issue; rather, it is the way we adjudicate and perceive rape victims.” PLD has made a submission to the Justice Verma Committee raising the issue of the vocabulary of the country’s rape laws. Adds Dr Ranjana Kaul, lawyer and member of the Delhi Commission for Women, “The language currently used in our statute is terribly Victorian and patriarchal. It looks at ‘modesty’ as something to be guarded. There is an utmost urgency to give clarity to what sexual assault means.”
The language goes back to 1860 when the Indian Penal Code drafted by Lord Macaulay came into practice. Though the IPC has been amended countless times since, the immense concern with a woman’s private sexual conduct remains. And it seems that on the issue of women’s sexual autonomy, present-day Indian jurisprudence is in agreement with the 19th century British administrator and the era he belonged to. Judges through the decades have tried wrapping their heads around the issue, without once coming up with the idea of formally acknowledging that not just the word, but the entire concept of sexual “modesty” is outdated.
Consider this. Back in 1966, while hearing a case of a penetrative assault on a seven month old, the then Chief Justice of India A K Sarkar made some interesting observations. The accused was being tried for “outraging the modesty of a woman” under section 354, and not rape. The judgment, eventually passed in the favour of the prosecutor, had the following remarks by Justice Sarkar: “I do not think a reasonable man would say that a female child of seven and a half months is
possessed of womanly modesty. If she had not, there could be no question of the respondent having intended to outrage her modesty or having known that his act was likely to have that result. I would for this reason answer the question in the negative.”
How the lack of “womanly modesty” nullifies the violence of an assault is a point that Justice Sarkar neglected to make. He did, however, make one allowance for the women of India. “If it is proved that criminal force was used on a sleeping woman with intent to outrage her modesty, then the fact that she does not wake up nor feel that her modesty had been outraged would be no defence to the person doing the act. The woman’s reaction would be irrelevant in deciding the question of guilt,” he added in the judgment.
Fast forward to March 2007. The apex court of the country made an observation that set a precedent for codifying women’s sexual behavior and autonomy within the legal system. A Supreme Court bench comprising Justices Arijit Pasayat and S H Kapadia ruled: “The essence of the woman’s modesty is her sex”. Critics say this observation only reinforces objectification of women. Says Madhu Mehra, “Modesty has nothing to do with a woman’s sex. This reduces her personhood to a sexual characteristic.”
The much talked about Ruchika Girhotra case dragged on for over two decades in various courts. The 14-year-old Ruchika was molested by a senior police officer in Panchkula. After three years of criminal intimidation, systematic physical torture of her brother and threats of violence followed by her complaint, the young teenager ended her own life. Everything Rathore did was covered under “outraging the modesty of a woman” for which he was convicted. The 2010 Punjab Haryana High Court judgment in relation to the case goes so far as to point to the exact moment when the young victim’s modesty was outraged. “The other act of the petitioner of encircling the waist and holding one hand of Ms. Ruchika and pushing her towards his chest is enough to conclude that her modesty had been outraged at that moment itself.”
As of now, the Criminal Law Amendment Bill still retains the word “modesty”. “Whoever has drafted these laws has no knowledge of feminist jurisprudence,” says lawyer Vrinda Grover. Until that comes about, the women of India will have to guard what the courts deem to be their “honour”.

WORDY AFFAIR: Victorian phrases in IPC are at odds with today’s India. (Above) girls at Slutwalk in Delhi last year

 

#Delhigangrape- Many more Nirbhayas #Vaw #Riots #impunity


Sexual violence against women has been a feature of many riots and conflicts but a culture of impunity prevails

MADHAVI RAJADHYAKSHA TIMES INSIGHT GROUP , Jan 19, 2013

It was in the August of 2008 that a Catholic nun from the Divyajyoti Pastoral Centre in the Kandhamal district of Orissa was allegedly raped and sexually assaulted by multiple perpetrators before being stripped and paraded. “She was forcibly made to walk in the market by a mob, which jeered at her, made lewd remarks such as “hi, beautiful” and commented on the size of her breasts,” states a report prepared by the National People’s Tribunal on Kandhamal in 2010.
The incident occurred in the midst of communal violence and has now been forgotten like many others. Nearly five years later, the nun’s only hope for justice lies in a sessions court in Cuttack where the case has been transferred.
At a time when citizens across India have been demanding better safety measures for women in the wake of the brutal gang rape and murder of a 23-year-old in Delhi, it is essential to spare a thought for women who have been targeted in the course of communal clashes or braved abuse in areas under conflict.
It is the quality of empathy that makes us strive for justice in instances like the Delhi gang rape, observes social activist Harsh Mander borrowing the rationale from development economist Amartya Sen’s Idea of Justice. “But it is also worrying because there are limits to our justice,” he points out, adding that we need to make our empathy and strivings for justice more universal.
Like him, many believe gender crimes committed during communal violence deserve attention all the more because they are perpetrated in an environment of complete impunity. Justice for such forgotten survivors was the demand of a host of public meetings recently organised under the aegis of the ‘Bombay ki kahani, Mumbai ki Zubani’ campaign commemorating 20 years of the Hindu-Muslim riots in the financial capital. Several delegations to the Justice J S Verma committee (studying amendments to the criminal law) have also suggested that sexual violence during mass crimes be regarded as aggravated abuse attracting more severe punishment.
After all, the case of the 29-year-old Orissa nun is no aberration. Women have been raped, violated and abused throughout India’s history of communal conflict be it the Sikh riots of 1984, the 1992-93 Bombay riots or the more recent Gujarat carnage (2002).
The report of the Srikrishna commission which probed the Bombay riots mentions a gruesome incident in Devipada, Kasturba marg where a Hindu mob surrounded, stripped and assaulted two Muslim women. The younger of the two was subsequently burnt alive. “Though the miscreants were arrested and tried by the Sessions Court at Bombay…they were all acquitted on the ground that the panchnamas were defective and that the eye-witnesses were not produced,” states the commission report hinting at impunity typical to such gender crimes. In another instance, the commission says the official explanation about the police firing that killed two Muslim women, Noorjehan and Zarina, in their homes was “hardly believable”.
Court judgments on the Gujarat riots document similar gender-based violence. Teesta Setalvad of NGO Sabrang cites a judgment in the Naroda Patiya trial which observed that gang rapes and rapes took place and says the judge criticised the Supreme-court appointed SIT for failing to make any attempt to investigate the perpetrators of these offences. “During periods of heightened violence, women become a specific target as a symbol of a community’s honour,” observes Setalvad.
The United Nations has acknowledged the accentuated risk of sexual violence in conflict. It floated a separate agency, the UN Action Against Sexual Violence in Conflict, in 2007 to ensure that such crimes don’t go unpunished.
It also underlined the need to create a
knowledge hub about the scale of such sexual violence in conflict, a mandate that needs implementation in India. “One gets the feeling that while riots are written about, sexual violence is not documented,” says Hasina Khan of the Forum Against Oppression of Women recounting how there was no paperwork to explain what happened to a teenaged girl who went missing from Pratiksha Nagar during the Bombay riots.
Saumya Uma, trustee of the Women’s Research Action Group, echoes her concerns. She is part of a group which is trying to track down and record the experience of women during the anti-Christian Orissa rampage. “We found from various sources that almost 39 women had faced some form of sexual violence, but only two to three cases were registered. What happened to the others?” questions Uma. She added that even the people’s tribunal had observed a large scale invisibility and silence regarding “documenting, reporting, investigating, charging and prosecuting cases” of sexual violence.
Justice for riot survivors is an arduous task because of the state’s complicity and shoddy investigations. “Many of us assume it is the failure of justice, but it is the systematic subversion of justice. It is systematically ensured that FIRs don’t mention the name of the accused but say anonymous mob,” points out Mander.
Vrinda Grover, a Delhi-based lawyer, says conflict areas are equally problematic. “While there may be silence and erasure in mass violence, we are dealing with actual denial of sexual violence happening in the state of Kashmir and northeast,” she notes. “Many NGOs talk of patriarchy in homes. But no one talks of patriarchy of the state,” she says.
A case in point is the tribal teacher Soni Sori in Chhattisgarh who was arrested on charges of playing courier between Maoist groups and a corporate. Sori has written heart-wrenching accounts of sexual abuse at the hands of police officials. “On the night of Saturday, 8.10.2011 in the new police station in Dantewada…I was tortured… After repeatedly giving me electric shocks, my clothes were taken off. I was made to stand naked….three boys started molesting me and I fell after they pushed me. Then they put things inside my body in a brutal manner. I couldn’t bear the pain, I was almost unconscious,” she wrote in an open letter to the Supreme Court.
What is now needed is a host of measures to crack this visage of impunity. This is essential as riots aren’t unfortunately a thing of past. The year 2012 was marked with communal clashes in Assam, pockets of Uttar Pradesh, Pachora in Maharashtra and Hyderabad in Andhra Pradesh.

SILENT ZONE: In conflict areas like the northeast and the Kashmir Valley, the state actually denies sexual violence

 

#Mumbai- 4-year-old raped in school bus, conductor arrested #WTFnews #Vaw


CHILDRAPE

By Vijay V Singh & Shreya Bhandary, TNN | Jan 19, 2013,

MUMBAI: A 35-year-old school bus conductor has been arrested by police for allegedly sexually assaulting a four-year-old nursery student of a premier Juhu school on a moving school bus.

Vile Parle resident Ramesh Rajput committed the crime on the young girl on Tuesday afternoon when the bus was dropping children home. The victim was the last child left on the 16-seater vehicle. Police officers said that, in breach of a state government policy, no woman attendant was present on the bus at the time of the offence. The school, however, insisted that a female attendant was at hand and it was she who “confronted” conductor Rajput and “stopped” him.

Police arrested Rajput on Thursday and booked him for rape and molestation under the Indian Penal Code and invoked several sections of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012. He was produced before the Andheri magistrate court on Friday and remanded in police custody till February 1. Meanwhile, the bus driver was made a witness in the case based on his version that he was unaware of what was going on in the back.

“We have effected immediate arrest of the person concerned, registered a strong case for a non-bailable offence and will ensure that the culprit is punished severely. We will also terminate the contract with the bus owner,” said a trustee of the girl’s school.

The crime occurred around 1pm on Tuesday after the bus left the school with more than a dozen nursery students, including several girls. One by one, the other kids were dropped off. A resident of the western suburbs, the victim was sitting in the front row waiting for her turn, when Rajput threatened her to go with him to the backseat, officers said. He then sexually assaulted her. According to a statement released by the school, the girl was “first pushed and then touched inappropriately”. As her residence neared, Rajput warned the child of dire consequences if she spoke about the incident to anyone.

Police officers said the child, in shock, did not reveal the crime to her parents on Tuesday. She did, however, make it known on Wednesday. According to the school, the child spoke to her father, who reported the offence in writing to the principal at 4pm on Wednesday.

“The principal initiated an immediate medical check-up of the child,” said the school statement, and on Thursday the school “handed over the bus driver, lady attendant and the accused”. The statement declared that the lady attendant was present in the bus “at all times as per the guidelines of the school” and she “immediately confronted” the conductor during the act of the crime and “stopped” him. “The lady attendant was a supportive witness”, the statement claimed.

On this however, the police differed from the school. Officers said there was no female attendant on the bus at the time of the crime.

The bus was engaged by the school, it admitted, on a yearly contract and guidelines given to “the transport vendors with respect to lady attendants, cleaning norms, etc. This has to be followed religiously”. Despite several attempts, the contractor was unavailable for comment.

As per the rules prescribed in the state government’s School Bus Safety policy, a school bus ferrying female students has to compulsorily employ a lady attendant. She has to remain present in the bus from the start of the journey till the last student is dropped off. The policy also demands that the school and the bus contractor sign an agreement requiring background checks on bus personnel by the contractor. At the same time, the school is made responsible for ensuring proper training for bus drivers, cleaners, conductors and attendants.

The police on Friday said they are inquiring into the lapses that possibly led to the Tuesday offence. They are also probing if Rajput committed a crime on any other child in the past. He has been slapped with Indian Penal Code sections 376 (rape), 354 (criminal force to woman with intent to outrage her modesty) and 509 (word, gesture or act intended to insult the modesty of a woman). “We also applied sections 3 (penetrative sexual assault), 7 (sexual assault) and 12 (sexual harassment of the child) of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012, in the case,” said additional police commissioner (west region) Vishwas Nangre-Patil.

Officers said the rape section was added taking into account a Supreme Court judgment that says that penetration is not necessary to establish the offence of rape. The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012, was invoked for it victim-friendliness. It bars direct confrontation between the victim and the perpetrator during investigation and trial, gives children the comfort of having a friend or family member with them while deposing, and directs police personnel to go to the victim’s home to take his or her statement and to do so in plainclothes.

 

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