The Delhi Police sexually assaulted 45 women and men during a protest against the Citizenship Amendment Act in the national Capital on February 10, a women’s organisation alleged on Tuesday. The National Federation of Indian Women, led by activist Aruna Roy, claimed in a press release that about 70 to 80 people, between the ages of 15 and 60, were victims of the violence. Of this, 15 women and 30 men faced sexual assault, they said.
The federation said in its press release that students of Jamia Millia Islamia University were carrying out a peaceful march to Parliament House in New Delhi on February 10, when the incidents took place. “The police began to put up barricades to stop the protestors from moving forward,” the press release said. “The protestors stopped and declared their decision to stage a peaceful sit-in at the barricades. Notwithstanding, the police swung into action, and without any warning or announcement to disperse, started attacking the protestors.”
The press release alleged that though protestors against the Citizenship Amendment Act had faced violence before, this was by far the worst episode. The organisation said that it talked to victims, other students, teachers, activists, medical professionals , administrative staff, and legal professionals. The teachers and students at Jamia Millia Islamia told the National Federation of Indian Women that the police used chemical gas against the protestors, and committed sexual attacks on women. Between 30 to 35 men and 15 to 17 women suffered grievous injuries, the organisation alleged.
‘Women, men suffered severe genital injuries’
“We were able to find out about 15 women and 30 men being assaulted in their private parts,” the press release said. “Women were molested by the male policemen, who attempted to tear their clothes, punched their breasts or stomped on them with their boots, as well as tried to insert their batons into the vaginas.” It said the women suffered injuries to their vaginas, and some had gynaecological complications.
“Along with women, we also came across men who suffered injuries in their sexual organs,” the organisation said. “The sexual assault on men was equally severe. The attack on groin and rectum resulted in severe injuries. The heinous and common feature of the attacks on both the genders was an attempted demonstration of the unlimited power of the police over the protestors.”
‘Chemicals used on protestors, not tear gas’
The press release also alleged that the police sprayed chemicals on the students that led to immobility, drowsiness and severe headaches, as well as choking and muscle pain. It said most of the protestors who were attacked with the chemical spray (which was not tear gas), were unable to stand for hours thereafter.
“When teachers, activists and students asked the police about this toxic gas, the police declined to give any clear answer,” the press release said. “They have categorically denied using any chemical gas or torture techniques on the students. “They claimed it to be mosquito fumigation spray that had drifted to the barricades from Holy Family Hospital. That claim is totally false as the hospital in question was nearly a kilometer away from the barricades.”
The symptoms of choking, vomiting and limited mobility continued for a week after the chemical attack, the organisation alleged. It also accused the police of intimidating doctors into not conducting medical tests on the students who were hospitalised.
‘Boys beaten inside bus’
The National Federation of Indian Women accused the police of severely beating around 30 boys who were protesting, after packing them into a bus to take them to the police station. “In the approximately 40 minute bus drive to the station, the boys were constantly beaten in the bus, their groins kicked at with boots,” the federation alleged. It said that while the boys were hospitalised, the ones who were less severely injured were sent back home within 48 hours, to avoid uncomfortable questions.
Demand for white paper, inquiry and compensation
The federation demanded that the Union Ministry of Home Affairs publish a white paper on the events of February 10, from the setting up of barricades to the detaining of students at the police station. It said the “selective detention and assault” on the students in the bus merits a separate white paper.
The federation also asked the government to institute a special judicial enquiry to investigate the “heinous nature of the crimes perpetrated by men in uniform”, some of whom did not even wear badges, and were suspected to be goons associated with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. “Apart from retired judges, we would also like a team of doctors to investigate and submit a public report on the use of chemicals on the protestors, and the nature of injuries of the survivors,” the organisation said. It also sought to “remind” the police and judicial authorities that no first information report has yet been filed.
The organisation demanded that the sections of the Justice Verma committee report, that recommend bringing sexual assault by uniformed personnel against women under the purview of ordinary criminal law, be implemented. They also asked for compensations for the victims of the sexual assaults, chemical attack and beatings.