Police say that the media reports claiming sexual assault of children by cops in Saadat orphanage in Muzaffarnagar is completely misleading, false, highly shameful and irresponsible.
Amid the recent violent anti-Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) agitations in Uttar Pradesh (UP), a case of alleged sexual assault by police on minor children in a madrassa had caused sensation on social media. The case involved Saadat hostel-cum-orphanage in Muzaffarnagar town of western UP.
After a newspaper, The Telegraph, quoted a “Congress politician” as saying that some of the hostel’s students “suffered rectal bleeding” amid police action, some prominent Twitter users speculated that it was rape. The users included actor Swara Bhaskar, political activist Kavita Krishnan and two journalists associated with the portal, Theprint.in.
It has now emerged that a police probe into the allegation has concluded it to be false and, subsequently, a first information report (FIR) for “publishing false report” under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act has been filed.
How The Speculation Started And Was Fuelled
On 29 December, The Telegraph published a bylined report with the headline ‘UP police accused of stripping cleric’.
The report quoted “local people” as saying that during an anti-CAA protest on 20 December, the police “detained and assaulted almost all the maulana’s 100-odd students from the Saadat hostel-cum-orphanage in Muzaffarnagar town, many of them minors and most of them orphans”.
The report further quoted Salman Saeed, introduced as “local Congress politician and son of former MP Saiduzzaman Saeed who lives nearby” as saying that “the boys were denied access to the toilet at times, and some of them suffered rectal bleeding from the torture”.
The report also quoted Saeed as saying that “the students were forced to chant ‘Jai Shri Ram’”.
Among the first to pick up the “rectal bleeding” bit to insinuate rape of children by cops was a Twitter user named Zainab Sikander, whose profile says she has a weekly show on the news portal Theprint.in. Communist Party of India Marxist-Leninist (CPI-ML) member Kavita Krishnan, former Mirror Now anchor Faye D’Souza and Theprint.in journalist Jyoti Yadav were among others who amplified the allegation.
Actor Swara Bhaskar, who has a significantly bigger following on social media, too joined in.
A portal, Caravandaily.com, then used these posts to put out a report on 2 January titled ‘Shock over Minor’s Rectal Bleeding in UP Police Torture; Probe Demanded in Alleged Rape’.
“Bollywood actress Shwara Bhasker, prominent human rights activist Kavita Krishnan and other twitter users have expressed shock and outrage over the report of minor boys suffering from the rectal bleeding in the police torture and demanded immediate probe into this alleged rape under the police custody in Uttar Pradesh’s Muzaffarnagar (sic),” the report said.
As the allegations pertained to minors, the National commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) stepped in and took suo-moto congnisance of the Caravandaily.com report and Bhaskar’s post under section 13 (1) (j) of the CPCP Act, 2003. The commission directed the Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP), Muzaffarnagar, to give a detailed report on the matter. The police subsequently submitted it on 13 January.
What The Police Report Says
The SSP’s report to the commission (which Swarajya has accessed), says that on 20 December, as many as 50,000 people gathered for an anti-CAA and NRC protest after Friday prayers at Madani Chowk, Kachchi Sadat, Fakkarshah Chowk and Meenakshi Chowk.
The crowd became violent and began to vandalise public property. It also pelted stones at the cops. When police used some force to disperse the crowd, many protesters entered the Saadat hostel-cum-orphanage building. Some of the protesters pelted stones and even fired shots from inside. The police then entered the premises and detained some of them.
The report says that the hostel management did not immediately identify any of the detainees as their inmates.
The report further says that The Telegraph report on the police detaining, assaulting and committing unnatural acts on Saadat children is opposite to the reality, and is highly shameful and irresponsible. It says that any information published in the media on sexual assault of children by cops in Saadat is completely misleading and false.
It says that on 5 January, even the hostel management issued a press release to the media calling reports of assault and unnatural acts by police on its children as blatantly false.
The SSP report further informs the child commission that on the statement of one Naeem Alam, who is a teacher at the madrassa, an FIR (number 16/2020) has been filed against unidentified persons under Section 22 of POCSO Act at Civil Lines police station.
The section pertains to making a false complaint or providing false information against a child, thereby victimising the child.
A special investigation team (SIT) constituted under the Superintendent of Traffic (SP), Muzaffarnagar, is investigating this case.
The report also says that a total of 25 cops including senior officers sustained injuries in the protests in Muzaffarnagar on 20 December. Multiple FIRs have been filed against the rioters and about 80 people have been sent to jail.
Swarajya has learnt that the NCPCR has informed the Home Ministry that the FIR is filed “for publishing false report of misbehaving with the students which was found to be baseless and is also against the dignity of the hostel”.
Earlier Too, Some Reports Had Refuted Allegations Of Rape
On 4 January, incidentally a day after the child commission took suo moto cognisance of the case, Theprint.in published a report titled ‘No rectal bleeding, but police thrashed us and said drink urine’: UP madrasa students.
The report said that the madrassa is run by 72-year-old Maulana Asad Raza Hussaini, who is a prominent Shia cleric in the region and was conferred the Maharshi Badrayan Vyas Samman by Vice-President Venkaiah Naidu in August 2019.
The report quotes Naved Alam, introduced as “a relative and confidante of Hussaini”, as saying that “neither the children nor maulana sahab suffered rectal bleeding”.
The report also quotes SSP Abhishek Yadav as saying that when the police entered the madrassa to catch the violent protesters, they ended up detaining some students as well, but later released them.
The madrassa management, however, told the website that their children were not only detained but also brutally beaten up, and some of them have still not been released.