JKSHRC seeks report on sexual harassment

Greater Kashmir

Srinagar, July 20: The State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) has directed the authorities to submit a factual report on petitions, alleging that the Army was sexually exploiting young women, particularly school girls, under the garb of Operation ‘Sadhbhavna’ in a border village of Bandipora district.
 The directions by SHRC member Habibullah Bhat came on two petitions by Mohammad Afzal Khan and Javed Ahmad Lone, the residents of Badaub Tulail border village in Gurez area of Bandipora district.
 In their complaints, the two alleged that Colonel Ranjan Jamwal, the Commanding Officer of 20 Punjab Infantry, and his men were sexually exploiting the young women, particularly school girls, on the pretext of imparting computer and medical training in a centre set up under the Army’s Operation Sadhbhavna (goodwill) in the area.
 The petitioners further alleged that the Army officer and his subordinates were forcibly taking the village women to the centre.
 ‘‘At the camp, they (women) are subjected to sexual harassment. If any woman resists, she is subjected to the third degree torture. The Army personnel are inflicting all kinds of atrocities on the civilians of the area,” they said.
 The complainants further alleged that the accused have been harassing, humiliating and intimidating the innocent and peace-loving civilians of the area and even threatened to murder and kidnap them besides destroying their property.
 The petition also said that some residents were extending all kind of support to the Army officer and his men. ‘’They make all efforts to motivate the young women of the area to attend the camp and in return grab 99 per cent of the allotted funds,” it added.
 The accused civilians also take various household goods of the Army personnel, the petitioners said and sought the SHRC’s intervention in the matter.
 Admitting the petitions for hearing, Bhat said on examination of the genesis of all types of allegations, he felt that prima facie two affidavits could not be rejected and thus the jurisdiction of the Commission had been rightly invoked.
 The SHRC member asked the state Director General of Police (DGP), the Deputy Commissioner and the Senior Superintendent of Police of Bandipora to submit their respective factual reports on the matter to the SHRC by August 20.
 Bhat also recommended some interim relief to the petitioners and the members of the border village.
 He directed the Deputy Commissioner and the SSP of Bandipora to use their good offices and render security, consolation and protection to the residents of the area.
 Bhat also said that all allegations of torture and harassment should be looked into and accordingly addressed. The authorities could also take appropriate action under law against the accused, if they feel so, he added.
 In May this year, the Army had come under severe attack from Muslim clerics, religious and separatist leaders for its plan to reconstruct and renovate mosques and shrines in Jammu and Kashmir under the Operation Sadhbhavna.