Citizens for Justice and Peace has alleged police atrocities on women belonging to a particular community in Godhra town of Gujarat. The Godhra judicial magistrate, first class, has asked senior police officers to inquire into the allegation and report to the court.
Teesta Setalvad, secretary of the Mumbai-based voluntary organisation, on Monday produced before mediapersons some of the women who, she said, were subjected to atrocities at home and later in police custody when they were arrested on charges of rioting and stone throwing. They were subsequently released on bail.
According to Ms. Setalvad, policemen from the Godhra “B” division station went to Geni Plot in search of Syed Husain Badam, an alleged cow thief, and some others on the night of December 19 on a complaint lodged by the Godhra municipality. She claimed that Badam, who had been absconding for 14 months, and the other accused were picked up from his residence at Geni Plot, but they gave the police the slip.
Around 1.15 the same night, policemen raided some of the houses at Hathila Plot, about 1.5 km a kilometre-and-a-half away, suspecting that the accused were hiding there. But unable to find them, the police allegedly took away gold and cash from three houses.
Ms. Setalvad claimed that the police picked up only women and subjected them to sexual abuse and physical torture. They even snatched a 19-day-old baby from her mother’s lap and tossed her to the ground, she said.
Later, eight women were arrested on charges of rioting and throwing stones at the police. They were taken to the Godhra sub-jail at 4 a.m. Even in the police van, the women were sexually harassed, she alleged.
When the women were produced before the Godhra judicial magistrate M. Nalawala the next day, she ordered the police to take them to the civil hospital for treatment. She also ordered an inquiry into the incident.
Ms. Setalwad said the police not only delayed taking them taking to the hospital till the evening, but also insisted that male doctors examine them. She said the women preferred not to be treated, enabling the police to concoct a medical report showing no police atrocities.
Demanding that the National Women’s Commission visit Godhra for a first-hand account of the atrocities, Ms Setalvad named four police personnel responsible for the atrocities — a sub-inspector and three constables. A CJP delegation later called on the Additional Director-General of police, law and order, Sudhir Sinha, demanding action against the erring policemen.
Panchamahals District Superintendent of Oolice G. M. Muthalia, however, denied the allegation and claimed that the women were actually hand-in-glove with the accused. They tried to prevent the arrest of the accused by keeping the police party at bay. The police party was subjected to heavy stone throwing when it went to arrest Badam and the other accused, enabling them to flee, he said.