During the ravaging anti-CAA riots in the state of Uttar Pradesh, media reports and several noted personalities levelled a sensational accusation of alleged sexual assault on minor children in a Madarsa against the police. The case pertained to Saadat hostel-cum-orphanage in Muzaffarnagar town of western Uttar Pradesh.
However, a police investigation into the accusation has concluded it to be false. Thereafter, an FIR has been filed for “publishing false report” under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, a report published on Swarajya by Swati Goel Sharma said.
In the aftermath of the enactment of the Citizenship Amendment Act, protests erupted in several places across Uttar Pradesh, in opposition to the legislation. The protests, which were carried out under the pretext of ‘peaceful’ opposition to the passage of the Citizenship Law saw widespread violence, allegedly carried out by the protestors. The Yogi Adityanath government gave a free hand to the UP police to quell the protests that were becoming increasingly violent, involving cases of arson, stone-pelting and vandalism.
As the Uttar Pradesh initiated action against the rampaging protestors, a report published in Telegraph quoted a “Congress politician” as saying that some of the Saadat hostel’s students “suffered rectal bleeding” due to police action. The report was shared by prominent Twitter users to assert that UP police had committed “rape” of the minors at the hostel. Actor Swara Bhaskar, political activist Kavita Krishnan, journalist Faye D’Souza and two other personalities were amongst those who had speculated that the UP police cops had sexually assaulted the children.
On December 29, 2019, the Telegraph published a report with a byline “UP police accused of stripping cleric“. Attributing local people, the report alleged that the police “detained and assaulted almost all of 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, furthermore, cited Salman Saeed, claimed as a “local Congress politician and son of former MP Saiduzzman Saeed who lived in the vicinity” stating that “the boys were denied access to a toilet at times, and some of them suffered rectal bleeding from the torture”. The report also quoted Saeed claiming that the students were forced to chant “Jai Shri Ram”.
Soon, several noted personalities lapped up the Telegraph report to slam Uttar Pradesh police for the alleged sexual assault against the minors.
Actor Swara Bhaskar, who commands a significant following on Twitter, lend credence to the report by soliciting support on the Social Media website and demanding an investigation into the “alleged rape of children in Muzaffarnagar by UP Police”.
Left-liberal political activist, Kavita Krishnan, too joined the bandwagon as she went on to assert that India is no longer angry at rapes of the Muzaffarnagar children at the hands of UP Police.
Another verified account, Zainab Sikander, who has a modest following on Twitter, and claims herself to be associated with ‘The Print’, asked the government to give 20 years of imprisonment to any of the cops found out to be guilty of raping the Saadat children.
Controversial journalist, Faye D’Souza, also lapped up the Telegraph report suggesting the apex court to take suo moto cognisance of the Muzaffarnagar incident under POCSO and commission a court-monitored investigation into the crime against children.
Then, a portal known as ‘The Caravan Daily’ published a report on January 2, using the aforementioned social media posts to accord legitimacy to the unfounded claim of “rectal bleeding” and “rape” as asserted by these prominent personalities against the UP police.
The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) took suo-moto cognisance of the Caravandaily.com report and Swara’s post under section 13 (1) (j) of the CPCP Act, 2003. It sought a detailed report on the matter from the Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP), Muzaffarnagar. The police submitted the report on January 13, 2020.
The police report stated that on December 20, 2019, about 50,000 people had swarmed at the Madani Chowk, Kachchi Sadat, Fakkarshah Chowk and Meenakshi Chowk for the ant-CAA, anti-NRC protests following the Friday prayers.
As the crowd turned violent and resorted to vandalising public property and pelting stones, police force came into action to disperse the swelling mob. Some of the protestors then entered the Saadat hostel-cum-orphanage building, the report says. Stones were pelted and shots fired from inside the building. The police then the building and detained some of the protestors.
According to the police, the hostel management did not immediately identify on the spot any of the detainees as their inmates.
Slamming the Telegraph report on the police excesses against the Saadat children, the police stated that the report is “opposite to the reality, and is highly shameful and irresponsible”. It categorically mentioned that any information published in the media on sexual assault of children by UP police in Saadat is completely misleading and false. The police report also cited the press release by the hostel management on January 5 that termed the reports of assault and unnatural acts by police on its children as blatantly false.
Based on the statement issued by Naeem Alam, a teacher at the Madarsa, the report informed the child commission that an FIR (number 16/2020) has been lodged against unidentified persons for making a false complaint or providing false information against a child, thereby victimising the child, under Section 22 of POCSO Act at Civil Lines police station.
Besides, a special investigation team (SIT) has been formed under the Superintendent of Traffic (SP), Muzaffarnagar, is investigating this case. The report states that 25 cops including senior officers were injured during the protests in Muzaffarnagar on 20 December. Several FIRs have been lodged against the rioters and 80 people were arrested in the case.
The NCPCR has reportedly informed the Home Ministry that the UP police has registered an FIR “for publishing a false report of misbehaving with the students which were found to be baseless and is also against the dignity of the hostel”.