Activists protest against police violence

They demand action against police officer for assaulting a sex worker

Even as more than a month has passed since the police brutality against a pregnant sex worker Anu Mokal allegedly resulted in her miscarriage, the police machinery has been silent on the entire issue. Women's rights organisations from across Maharashtra protested against the police assault in Satara on Monday.

Ms. Anu, a sex worker in Satara, was allegedly beaten up by Police Inspector Dayanand Dhome on April 2, along with her friend Anjana Ghadge. While they were arrested and eventually released on April 3, Anu suffered a miscarriage on April 5. Ms. Anu has alleged that Mr. Dhome had kicked her because of which she fell down, which resulted in the miscarriage. Ms. Anu has reportedly said that she was going to a hospital to meet her friend, when Mr. Dhome abused her and beat her up, calling women like her a “shame.”

The protest march demanded that an enquiry be conducted by the Maharashtra Government and not by the police. Activists demanded that the Inspector be suspended from service to ensure a fair enquiry.

Sangram from Sangli and Masum from Pune were among the organisations that took part in the protest. “There were 700 people in the march, which included sex workers collective from Satara, Sangli, Pune, and Mumbai. The protest drove home the point that Anu was not just a worker as the police have been reiterating, but also a woman, a human being, and that injustice against her must be investigated,” Manisha Gupte, Co-Convenor, Mahila Sarvangeen Utkarsh Mandal (MASUM), Pune, said.

The protesters met Satara Deputy Collector who promised to conduct an enquiry, and take up the issue with the Government, Ms. Gupte said.

The police deny that that Ms. Mokal was beaten up.

Deputy Superintendent of Police Marutrao Dafle said: “We have not found any eye witness deposing that Anu Mokal was beaten up by Inspector Dhome. If it has happened, it is unfortunate. But we have no proof yet. A departmental enquiry is on.”

The issue has been taken up by Human Rights Watch (HRW), the international human rights advocacy NGO. Expressing solidarity to the protest march, Aruna Kashyap, Asia researcher on women's rights at HRW, pointed out that there had been no action against police violence. “The State's response to women who experience violence is often characterized by delay, denial, discrimination, and disregard for women's dignity,” she said. “The system needs an urgent, substantial overhaul and officials who fail to carry out their duty or engage in discrimination against those who experience violence should face consequences.”

HRW has written to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in which it also points out the case of Soni Sori, a tribal woman and government teacher from Chhattisgarh, who was arrested and accused of being a Maoist supporter, and then allegedly tortured and sexually assaulted in police custody. The letter is signed by various human rights and women's health organisations including the Public Health Foundation of India, New Delhi and Naz Foundation India Trust, New Delhi.

“It is appalling that one arm of the Government spends millions on women's health while another can assault and harm women's health without facing justice,” Ms. Kashyap said. “India cannot boast about its commitment to women's health unless it adopts a zero-tolerance policy towards police violence and supports women who dare to stand up to it,” she added.

Anu Mokal was allegedly beaten up in Satara

She suffered a miscarriage as a result of this

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