Violent Gang Attempts to Abduct Social Workers; Police Denies Protection and FIRs

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*Names of survivors (only) have been changed

On 7th of August between 6-6:30pm, a violent gang of six people attempted to abduct, attacked, and threatened the life of Kritika, a Counselor at Shakti Shalini NGO, Jangpura B, New Delhi. They assaulted, pushed and pulled Kritika for fifteen-twenty minutes smuggling her into a private car and, amidst the chaos, snatched her phone when she tried desperately to call the police. Seventy-hundred onlookers watched in silence. Kritika continuously screamed for help asking the audience to call the police but nobody stepped forward until the beat constable arrived. Kritika escaped due to her own grit and self-defense.

Shakti Shalini sent Manisha, another counselor, to Kritika’s aid immediately upon receiving word. One member of the same gang followed Manisha from her home as she sped to Kritika, attempted unsuccessfuly to hit Manisha with a gas pipe inside a police booth (Jangpura B), and issued life threats to her as well.

The police arrived on the scene of crime one hour late by which time five out of six attackers had runaway. The Investigating Officer Anil Beniwal, S.I., refused to register an FIR stating that he first wants to investigate to his “satisfaction” since he finds the victim’s narrative to be “not genuine.” The Investigating officer completely ignored the acts committed by the accused and, with profuse insensitivity, gaslighted and blamed the victim. He told Kritika that attacks are a normal “professional hazard” in social work and if she is frightened she should stop working and sit at home. He has generated an Investigation Report of a “lost phone” despite knowing that the victim described a snatching in her complaint, and added a Non-Cognizable Offence report of intimidation and hurt occurring due to a squabble between “two women.” The report only names one of the six attackers and states that their whereabouts are not known even though the victims submitted identities, phone numbers and car number. As Kritika and Manisha made their way back home from the police station, the accused followed them to their home in a car.

On 18th of August, Kritika, Shakti Shalini’s Counselor, again received life to threat messages from one member of the same violent gang about which the IO, SHO, and DCP were immediately intimated. No reply has come till date. From 22nd August onward, the gang started posting defamatory and threatening comments on Shakti Shalini’s social media.

For twenty days Shakti Shalini has run from pillar to post, approached the DCP, ADCP, SHO, and IO repeatedly, to no avail. As on day no FIR for abduction has been registered, all requests for change of investigation officer and a proper investigation into the complaints of the victims have gone unheard across the hierarchical ladder of the police system. Delhi police response amounts to condoning violence and crime while victims have been left vulnerable in complete danger to life.

These attacks on our Counselors are vengeful retaliations by this gang against Shakti Shalini for refusing to surrender two survivors – Naina and her one year old baby, Aman – who escaped their violence and sought protection at Pehchan Shelter home by Shakti Shalini, one of the oldest and most respected Shelter Homes for Women Survivors of Gender and Sexual Violence in India. Ashish, Aman’s father and Naina’s ex-partner, is a central member of this gang. Ashish subjected Naina to severe domestic violence and sexual exploitation and physically abused Aman. He wants complete custody over them. Naina has explicitly stated that she does not want to speak to Ashish. Shakti Shalini has respected her choice and refused Ashish all access due to which he and his gang have retaliated with extreme violence.

Since Naina and Aman have entered Shakti Shalini’s protection this gang, in varying numbers, has hovered around our head office and shelter home creating a ruckus, harassing staff members, making incessant phone calls, demanding entry and access to the mother and child. On 2nd August they created such aggressive chaos outside the shelter home we had to call the Lajpat Nagar police to tackle them. Despite all this information and knowledge, Delhi police has remained entirely ineffective.

Three women and an infant baby are living under constant threat to life from the same gang of anti-social, violent attackers and abusers. All three women have filed police complaints. Yet, Delhi police, which promises a “Safe City to Women” and parades the slogans, “With You Always” and “May I Help You” has denied all help. It has, in stead, indulged in victim blaming, shaming, and gaslighting, conducted a botched investigation, refused to change the investigation officer and order a re-investigation, refused to file correct FIRs. The inaction of the police has, in effect, emboldened and facilitated the anti-women violence of this gang.

Young women like our counselors who work hard to support vulnerable survivors of violence, and thus assist the police in mitigating violence and crime, deserve to be supported by law and order agencies of the state, not subjected to such a shameful violation of their basic human and citizenship rights. If “the system” is going to subject social workers to such mistreatment and abandon them in the face of complete danger, no young person, no young woman will ever step forward to work for human rights in India. And that will be a shameful tragedy for the nation.

Shakti Shalini requests Prime Minister of India, Home Minister of India, and Delhi Police Commissioner, to take direct responsibility for the lives of Kritika, Manisha, Naina, and Aman. We request that the voices of the victims be heard and swift action be taken that sends a message to both civil society and law enforcement officers that violence is not to be condoned, and Kritika, Manisha, Naina, and Aman, are able to live life with the sense of security and freedom that is their constitutional right as Indian citizens.

On 26th August, Naina and Kritika, both filed Writ Petitions at the Delhi High Court seeking protection and a mandate from the court to the police to conduct proper investigations. On 28th August both court hearings took place. Upon order of the Court, Naina, Kritika and vulnerable colleagues have been provided protection and the SHO Mukesh Walia of Nizamuddin Police Station has been given the responsibility to oversee proper investigation until the next hearing in October. 

The struggle is just beginning.

Shakti Shalini needs your support to ensure that the ultimate outcome of all legal proceedings is favourable to victims and holds attackers and abusers responsible for the pain, misery, fear they have inflicted. Shakti Shalini makes four specific requests to the Prime Minister, Home Minister, and Delhi Police Commissioner:

·      Filing of an Attempt to Abduct FIR.

·      Immediate Change of Investigation Officer.

·      Ensure Thorough and Honest Investigation Post Haste.

·      Investigation into the Mismanagement of the Case by the Current Investigation Officer.

To read a detailed description of the sequence of events and police response please click: https://darmiyanblog.wordpress.com/2019/08/27/sequence-of-events/

To view media coverage please click: https://www.thequint.com/neon/gender/ngo-worker-allegedly-assaulted-by-man-who-forced-a-woman-into-sex-work?fbclid=IwAR2PGj4id5OWbQLwCpEzIFpIWNCW6A6DsY5rI-xC_GzFfZl-zcJrN5chjkE

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