They took 14 days to register her case, prolonging the ignominy she suffered

While the nation’s focus remained on the developments around the Delhi gang rape incident, a minor girl from a Dalit family in a remote village of Patiala district of Punjab, subjected to a similar assault on Diwali, committed suicide after facing threats from the perpetrators, apathy from the police and ignominy. Three people, all belonging to an influential caste Hindu family, have been arrested in connection with the case.

On the basis of the preliminary reports, Punjab Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal, who is also the Home Minister, asked the DGP to suspend Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) Harpreet Singh and immediately dismiss SHO of Ghagga police station Gurcharan Singh and Assitant Sub-Inspector Nasib Singh, who was the investigating officer in the case. Gurcharan Singh and Nasib Singh were named by the victim in her suicide note.

The girl consumed a poisonous substance at a relative’s place in Samana town on Wednesday night and died before her family could take her to the Rajindera Hospital in Patiala. Though the names of the accused — Gurpreet Singh, Balwinder Singh and Shinderpal Kaur — were mentioned in the suicide note, the family and relatives of the victim sought action against the police officers who did not take necessary action in the case.

The girl, reports from Patiala said, was lured out of her house in Badshahpur village by Shinderpal Kaur on November 13. She was then kidnapped by Gurpreet and Balwinder of Baras village and taken to a tube-well. They then drugged her and took turns to rape her. Later in the day they dumped her near a gurdwara.

The girl’s ordeal did not end as officials of the Ghagga police station, under whose jurisdiction the crime occurred, took 14 days to register the case. Her father and elder sister told journalists in Patiala that SHO Gurcharan Singh summoned the girl repeatedly to the police station and forced her to narrate the episode a number of times and asked her indecent questions. After she withstood the pressure to withdraw the complaint, the police were compelled to register a case on November 27.

While the Ghagga police refused to act on the complaint, the accused began to threaten and harass the victim’s family. More than a week ago, the girl was shifted to a relative’s place in Samana town. But the accused traced her there too. With the local police indirectly supporting the accused, the girl finally succumbed to pressure and ended her life.

IGP Paramjit Gill said that an FIR (No. 96) had been registered under Sections 376, 363 and 34 of the Indian Penal Code for rape and kidnapping. However, the SHO neither arrested the accused nor brought the matter to the notice of his seniors. Rather, he deleted the record of the case from the daily report that was mandated to be sent to the district headquarters.

Expressing shock over the incident, Punjab Congress president Captain Amarinder Singh said such incidents were being reported every day. He said that the party’s stance — that the law and order situation had deteriorated to an extent that it warranted imposition of President’s rule — stood vindicated.

Captain Singh said mere dismissal of police officers was no solution. He demanded a thorough inquiry to ascertain the identity of the person under whose pressure the SHO was coercing the girl to strike a compromise with the accused. “The government needs to tame the elements who are influencing the functioning of the police and forcing them to do wrong things which lead to tragic situations like the suicide of the girl, as she was being denied justice,” he said.

Mr. Sukhbir Singh Badal has asked police chief Sumedh Singh to take immediate and strictest possible action against the guilty police officers. He said any insensitivity and dereliction of duty, especially in crimes against women, would not be tolerated.Mr. Badal also directed Patiala zone IGP P.S. Gill, to conduct a thorough inquiry to fix responsibility for the lapse and submit a report within a week.