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Home > Women’s Rights > India - Haryana: Silence and Cover-up of gang rapes in Murthal during Jat (...)

India - Haryana: Silence and Cover-up of gang rapes in Murthal during Jat Agitation?

21 April 2016

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The Times of India - April 18, 2016

Editorial

Unsafe In Murthal: February 22 gang rape survivors deserve better from the Haryana police and government

For too long the Haryana government dismissed the Murthal gang rapes as a rumour. And even now there seems to be an inexcusable laxity in the work of identifying the culprits and building a foolproof case against them, or even ensuring the security of witnesses and gang rape survivors who speak up. A Delhi resident, on whose complaint the gang rape charge was finally added to an FIR, has reported a death threat for “saying so much against the Jats”. This horror was perpetrated by rioters on National Highway I less than 50 km from the country’s capital. What’s worse is that two months on the smell of “a cover-up” is still hanging over it.

If it had been left to the Haryana government, the crime may never have come to light. But media painstakingly gathered evidence of the incident that police had dismissed as rumour. Then the Punjab and Haryana high court took suo motu cognisance of the matter. Sustained efforts of media and judiciary are pushing resistant authorities to investigate what happened on February 22. Early that day, as the state melted away during the violent Jat agitation for caste quota, witnesses have told media that at least 10 women commuters on the national highway near Murthal were dragged into the fields and gangraped. Afterwards it seems authorities advised the women to stay silent “for the sake of their honour”.

Of course the dishonour vests with rapists rather than rape survivors. Police failed in letting the mob run riot but it must not fail now in catching the rapists. Under IPC Section 376(D) gang rape is a serious crime punishable by imprisonment of 20 years to life. Haryana must reassure women and the world

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The Tribune, April 18, 2016

Murthal rapes: Key eyewitness ‘attacked’, escapes unhurt

Sushil Manav

Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 17

Delhi resident, Bobby Joshi, a key witness to the Murthal gangrapes during the Jat reservation stir, was allegedly attacked by two unidentified persons on National Highway -1, while he drove enroute to Delhi from Ludhiana last night. Though Joshi escaped unhurt in the incident, the two motorcycle borne attackers hurled a stone at him, smashing the car’s window.

Speaking to The Tribune, Bobby Joshi said, “While returning to Delhi in my car from Ludhiana, I stopped to buy cigarettes between Karnal and Panipat around midnight. As I got back into the car, two motorcycle-borne youths drove towards me. Hurling abuses, they threw a stone at me, shattering the car’s window.”

Even though the police claimed to have provided him security on Friday itself, after he allegedly received a threat call, no cop was accompanying Joshi while the incident took place last night. Joshi said he later narrated the incident to cops, who joined him at Panipat.

Asked whether he had lodged an FIR following the incident, Joshi said he had informed Mamta Singh, Inspector General of Police (IG), who also heads the SIT formed by the state government to probe the Murthal gangrapes. “They have asked me to give a written complaint,” Joshi said.

Mamta Singh, IG, said Joshi had brought the matter to her notice today when she had called him to ask when he would appear before the SIT to record his statement. She also said Joshi neither contacted her or the police immediately after the incident.

When asked about the absence of security cover provided to Joshi during the attack, the IG said since Joshi was in Ludhiana, he had himself coordinated with the security guards and asked them to wait for him at Panipat.

“I have referred his complaint to Karnal SP and told him to take action as per the law,” she said.

When asked whether he had narrated the incident to the security guards at Panipat, she refused to comment.

After initially rejecting the reports of sexual assaults in Murthal, the state government had informed the Punjab and Haryana High Court during the last hearing on the case that a section on gangrape had been added to the FIR registered on the basis of a complaint filed by Bobby Joshi on March 30 alleging gang-rapes during the Jat quota violence.

The Punjab and Haryana High Court had taken suo motu notice of media reports that some women commuters were stripped and raped by rioters at Murthal on National Highway – 1 during the Jat stir.

Joshi had alleged receiving a threat call on Friday frightening him with dire consequences for “speaking too much”. Mamta Singh, IG, claimed to have provided him security then.

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The Hindu

GURGAON, April 12, 2016

Murthal outrage: Haryana police add ‘gang rape’ to FIR

by Ashok Kumar

Section added after receiving 2 anonymous letters alleging sexual assault during Jat stir, HC told

In a fresh development in the probe into reports and allegations of gang rape at Murthal during the Jat agitation for reservation in February, the Haryana police on Monday told the Punjab and Haryana High Court that the Section on gang rape had been added to the first information report in the case. The move comes after the police received two anonymous letters from women stating that they had been sexually assaulted. The police told the court that the first letter was forwarded by the Faridabad Commissioner of Police to the Superintendent of Police, Sonipat, on March 1 who, in turn, sent it to the Special Group of Officers on March 2. The second letter, from a non-resident Indian woman, was forwarded to the police by the Haryana News Channel.

“Since the content of both communications reveals the commission of offence under Section 376D of the Indian Penal Code, the relevant Section has been added and further investigation will be conducted on these communications to verify the content,” said the Haryana Police affidavit to the court.

Details of victims

The first letter, posted from Mathura Road, Faridabad, states that the victim, a student, was returning home with her father from the college hostel when she was allegedly gang raped. The police told the court that the Deputy Commissioners of districts falling on the National Highway-1, including Sonipat, Karnal, Kurukshetra, Yamuna Nagar and Ambala, had been requested to provide the list of colleges/technical institutes with girls’ hostels so that they could identify the victim.

The letter from the NRI, forwarded to the police by the news channel, had gone viral on a social networking website. The Cyber Cell, Sonipat, has been directed to contact the news channel and find out the source of the letter. The victim, in her letter, said she had reached the New Delhi airport from Australia on February 21 and was travelling on National Highway-1 near Murthal where she was allegedly gang raped. The complainant has mentioned the names of her relatives who had arrived with her. The police have made a request to Foreigner Regional Registration Officer, Delhi, seeking help in identifying the victim.

The Punjab and Haryana High Court had taken suo motu notice of media reports that some women travelling on the Delhi-Ambala highway (NH-1) were allegedly gang-raped by rioters during the Jat agitation.

Initially, the Haryana government had told the court that no incidents of rape or molestation had taken place, but a first information report was filed on March 30 based on a complaint filed by a Delhi resident.

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Daily O - 27 February 2016

Ignoring Murthal highway gang rapes is our national shame

While Delhi media slept, politicians were busy debating ’Durga versus Mahishasur’ in Parliament.

by Ashok K Singh

The gang rapes of 10 women at Murthal near Sonepat in Haryana are the nation’s shame. It’s a shame for the governments of Haryana as well as the Centre. It’s our collective shame. Sadly, it’s national media’s shame too. Why is it a shame for 24/7 media? Let’s consider the facts.

One, The Tribune, Chandigarh reported the news of the alleged rape of 10 women by 30-odd men on National Highway-1 near Murthal in Haryana on February 22 (Monday). Two, The Tribune ran a headline, "Women commuters ’violated’ by highway goons" on the front page as a lead. The web edition of the paper carried the story as well with same prominence aptly with a deck, "Horror of Highway."

Three, The Tribune is a credible newspaper. It’s not known for sensationalism and trivialisation of news. Four, the story was credited to two of the newspaper’s senior reporters who had visited Murthal, spoken to people living and working around the spot where the crime took place.

They had also spoken to the police and army officials who were on duty in the area on the night of February 22 after the violence triggered by demand for reservation by Jats.

Five, the Punjab and Haryana High Court took suo motu cognizance of the incident the same morning, February 22, after reading the newspaper. Justice Naresh Kumar Sanghi who took the cognizance said say the incident required a probe by the "premier investigating agency" of the country.

Six, the Haryana Human Rights Commission also took suo motu cognizance of the report the same day. And lastly, The Tribune reported that the Haryana Police after making preliminary inquiries termed the report as a rumour.

The facts are being recounted here for one reason. Never or seldom, if ever, one comes across high judiciary, high court, and human rights commission moving with such speed on the basis of a news report. It reinforces the credibility of the report, the seriousness of the incident and its magnitude.

The Tribune reported that in the wee hours of February 22, vehicles on the National Highway-1 at Murthal in Sonepat district of Haryana were stopped by a group of 30-odd goons. They set the vehicles on fire. The male occupants of vehicles managed to flee.

Some women, as many as 10, according to the report, who couldn’t flee, were dragged out, stripped and raped. The women were found lying in the fields nearby when their male relatives returned after the goons had left. The victims and their families, the report said, were advised by the district officials not to report the matter to anyone for the sake of their "honour".

The shame of national media:

For full four days after the incident was reported, the Delhi media was sleeping. It was so pre-occupied with reporting the war over "your nationalism versus mine"; so engrossed with reported threat to freedom of speech; and so captivated with the phony war between Arnab Goswami and Barkha Dutt that it chose to shove the shame of Haryana under the carpet.

Murthal is less than 50km from Delhi. It’s on the national highway linking Delhi with Chandigarh. There were tell-tale signs of molestation and "violation" of women reported by The Tribune. Torn jeans and clothes, dupatas and undergarments were strewn in the fields.

There were witnesses who had spoken to The Tribune reporters, roadside eateries’ owners who had given shelters to the women fleeing from the marauders. There were villagers who were talking of circumstantial evidence pointing to molestations. There were people from villages nearby who had said that they had rushed to provide clothes to women who had been stripped and molested.

By the time the Delhi media woke up to rush, the police and goons had silenced the eyewitnesses into submission.

No less culpable are politicians who were busy scoring brownie points over each other in Parliament. For political parties, debating merits and demerits of "Ma Durga versus Mahishasur" constituted a matter of more urgent national priority than raising the issue of a mass gang rape.

Had the opposition parties raised the issue in Parliament that very day, the culprits wouldn’t have the time to suppress the incident. The Haryana Police would have been under a lot more pressure to act. The Haryana police chief wouldn’t be staging the charade of calling for victims of rape to come forward to report the case after four days, rather than going after the culprits.

Had television reporters rushed there on the same day to report the horror of highway as "breaking news", had the horror of Haryana been on the prime time debate on February 22, the shame of Haryana would been exposed more forcefully.

If an incident of mass rape of women in the backyard of the national capital could remain virtually off the nation’s radar for four days, one shudders to think of the plight of the people who live in the country’s vast hinterland. The horror of Haryana is a collective national shame for which we all must hang our heads in shame.

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The Tribune, February 24, 2016

Women commuters ‘violated’ by highway goons

Haryana Police dismiss incident as rumour but Murthal villagers have a horrific tale to tell

Naveen S Garewal & Parveen Arora

Tribune News Service

Murthal (Sonepat), Feb 23

Vehicles with women passengers were reportedly stopped on the national highway near Murthal in the wee hours of Monday morning, they were dragged out into the nearby fields and raped. Though the police dismissed the incident as rumour, eyewitnesses said at least 10 women were sexually assaulted. Even worse, the victims and their families were reportedly advised by the district officials not to report the matter to anyone “for the sake of their honour”.

Sources said commuters going towards the National Capital Region (NCR) were attacked by 30-odd goons. Their vehicles set afire, most ran for shelter. Some women could not flee. They were pulled out, stripped and raped. Terrified, they lay still in the fields till they were found by their menfolk who came looking for them. Shocked, residents of Hassanpur and Kurad rushed to bring clothes and blankets for the victims.

"Three women were taken to Amrik Sukhdev Dhaba and united with their families in the presence of senior police officers. They appeared lifeless. District officials who arrived there, instead of investigating the matter, persuaded the families to take the women home. Many were provided transport," said an eyewitness, who did not want to be identified.

Residents of Hassanpur and Kurad, camping at Sukhdev Dhaba since Sunday after goons tried to set the eatery on fire, corroborated the account. Amrik Singh, owner of the dhaba, said they learnt about the incident at 3 am when some travellers heard the victims wailing. He said a blockade on the highway was removed by the security forces a kilometre away from the dhaba after a mild lathicharge. Some youths hid themselves in the fields. After the security personnel, who escorted the stranded vehicles, had left the site, some of them came out. “They threw stones at other vehicles that had arrived there in the meantime, forcing the occupants to flee. Some women who were left behind were sexually assaulted,” the eyewitnesses said.

Shaken up by the incident, village elders Hari Krishan of Kurad and Zile Singh of Hassanpur said they didn’t want to talk about the incident as “the police are sure to shield the criminals and nobody, not even the locals, are safe.” Jai Bhagwan, who too runs a dhaba on the highway, said four young women took refuge inside a water tank near his dhaba.

“We turned off the lights so as not to attract the attention of the goons. The hapless women remained there for hours till they were escorted out at daybreak.”

Several witnesses claimed that the rape victims were persuaded by “senior officers” not to pursue the matter on the plea that it would bring them a bad name and “what had happened could not be undone”.

A senior IPS officer said it was just a rumour and the media should refrain from writing anything that could create tension in society.

‘Stop madness, we all lose’

Chandigarh: Among an avalanche of messages on social network sites, one by chess player Anuradha Beniwal appealing to the Haryanvis to end “this madness” stands out. Speaking chaste Haryanvi, Beniwal implores the people (Jats) to give up violence and speaks of the futility of burning down public property raised from taxes.

“You suddenly went against everybody, saying Thakurs said this and Sainis said that. Don’t you have brains to think on your own? What you have burnt belonged to you. You have not burnt Pakistan’s or America’s buildings,” she says in anguish.

Contending that government jobs alone will not ensure progress, she asks as to who’ll invest in Haryana now. — Sushil Manav

"My first coach was a Thakur and another a Saini. The coach who taught me the finer nuances of the game was from a family of goldsmiths. They did not ask me if I was a Jat or a Thakur, a Baniya or a Dalit. They only knew that I belonged to their own Haryana." — Anuradha Beniwal