Cops assault eight-year-old, Renuka joins angry protests (Third Lead)

February 3rd, 2009 - 7:26 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi/Lucknow, Feb 3 (IANS) Deaf to her cries for mercy, police in an Uttar Pradesh village brutally thrashed an eight-year-old for allegedly stealing Rs.280. But the cameras were rolling and, as an outraged nation watched on TV with union minister Renuka Chowdhury joining the chorus of protests, a “depressed” state police chief said sorry. “This is the saddest spectacle I have seen,” the union minister for women and child development said at a press conference in Delhi as TV screens unfolded details of how Komal was mercilessly assaulted in Etawah district’s Kailokhar village.

In the shocking display of brutality witnessed by viewers across India, police pulled Komal up by her hair, twisted her ears and rained blows inside the police station Monday.

Unfortunately for them, it was all caught on TV cameras.

“Didn’t you get angry watching a man in uniform ill-treat a small girl? Don’t you get goosebumps?” a livid Chowdhury asked at the Social Editors Conference, echoing the anger many felt.

As TV viewers watched the thin Dalit child dressed in bedraggled clothes being beaten up even as she was pleading that she was innocent, police was forced into quick action.

Etawah’s district police chief K.S. Singh told IANS: “We have already placed the Jaswantnagar SHO (station house officer) Chandrapal Singh under suspension. Another inspector involved in the incident has been dismissed.”

The state police chief Vikram Singh said he was personally “depressed” and sad about the incident and told reporters in Kanpur: “On my behalf, the Etawah SP (superintendent of police) must visit the girl’s family and apologise to them for the shameful act.”

Komal’s mother Ram Kali blamed the police of wrongly detaining and beating her.

She said she had given Komal Rs.15 to go to the market. But Komal returned home only late Monday with injury marks on her face and arms.

“Her hair had been plucked out from a number of places on her head,” Raj Kali claimed.

Giving his version of the events, SHO Chandrapal Singh said over the phone: “We were sitting in the police station when a young girl, aged 17 to 18, entered the police station with Komal.”

The girl, Anju, alleged that Komal had slipped away with her purse that had been hanging on her cycle.

“We frisked both Komal and Anju but did not find the purse,” he clarified, adding that Anju said in her complaint that the purse had been handed over to a boy who had escaped.

With the incident creating ripples all over the country, there is likely to be more action against the police officials involved.

Additional Director General of Police (law and order) Brij Lal said: “Action will be taken against all the cops involved in the incident.”

A criminal case, including sections of the Scheduled Castes/Scheduled Tribes Act, have been lodged against the two cops.

Child rights activists condemned the incident and said that instances of police roughing up children were a regular feature, even in the capital.

“One police inspector was dismissed, two others involved in the incident were suspended. That’s it? The incident must have left such a deep scar on the young girl - they (authorities) must think of her rehabilitation,” Shanta Sinha, chairperson, National Commission for the Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR), told IANS.

“Hers is a fortunate case - it was caught on camera. This happens all the time, right here in the capital - what can we expect from cops in a village,” said Rakesh Senger of the NGO Bachpan Bachao Andolan.

Under the Juvenile Justice Act, 2000 even if a child (minor) has committed a crime, police cannot take any action against him or her. Any decision can be taken only when the child is produced in court in consultation with a Juvenile Justice Board or a child welfare committee.

Chowdhury has picked out Uttar Pradesh for its growing inefficiency in checking child rights violations.

“Everyday, there is a new incident there… from Nithari to this incident. On top of it, this was a poor Dalit girl. Unfortunately, law and order is a state subject,” she said, referring to the rape and murder of at least 19 children and young women in Nithari village in Noida, adjoining the national capital, that came to light in December 2006.

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