Murthal 'rapes': Witnesses emerge, Haryana panel begins probe

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Chandigarh, Feb 27: An all-women inquiry committee set up by the Haryana government to probe alleged mass gang rapes of women began its probe on Saturday, with a couple of witnesses claiming to have seen hooligans assaulting some women.

The women were commuting on National Highway-1 during the violent Jat agitation earlier this week when they were allegedly sexually assaulted.

Har: Witnesses emerge in Murthal 'rapes'

Niranjan Singh, an elderly Sikh man, told media on Saturday that he saw hooligans assaulting women commuters and tearing off their clothes.

"I have seen this happening with my own eyes. The hooligans attacked the women and girls and tore off their clothes. Some were chased into the fields, some were dragged," the witness said.

The alleged incidents took place early Monday (February 22). Media reports said mass gang rapes took place and that up to 10 women were sexually assaulted by a group of nearly 40 hooligans during the Jat community's agitation for reservation.

The reports said the women were pulled out of their cars, stripped and gang raped in nearby fields. The victims later reached a nearby popular roadside eatery and sought help.

Another witness, Yadwinder, claimed he saw three women with children and some men who were trying to save themselves from the Jat protesters.

"We were at some distance but I clearly saw three women with torn clothes trying to escape from the area," Yadwinder, who was travelling in a bus and had to hide in a nearby premises, said.

The state government's inquiry committee, headed by a woman Deputy Inspector General (DIG) Rajshree Singh and comprising two women Deputy Superintendents of Police (DSPs), Bharti Dabas and Surinder Kaur, on Saturday started the probe into the reported incidents. The committee visited Hasanpur village near Murthal, where the alleged assault took place.

The committee has been set up to look into allegations that women commuters were pulled out of their cars during the recent Jat agitation and mass gang-rapes took place at Murthal in Haryana's Sonepat district.

Haryana Director General of Police (DGP) Y.P. Singhal on Friday said the inquiry committee would thoroughly probe the allegations.

The reports said clothes and undergarments of women were found strewn in the area but Haryana Police claimed these could have fallen out from bags of the commuters who were stopped and chased away by the Jat protesters who set their vehicles on fire later.

Additional Chief Secretary P.K. Das told media here on Friday the state government was "very serious about this alleged incident and those found guilty would not be spared".

Das appealed to people to cooperate and provide information without any fear. "The identity of any informer would not be disclosed," Das said.

DGP Singhal denied that police personnel at lower-level might be trying to keep a lid on the episode. It was alleged that police officials told the women victims not to report the matter as nothing would come out of it.

Haryana Police and the state government had on Wednesday denied any incident of "indecent behaviour" and rape of women in Sonepat during the recent agitation.

"Investigations conducted by the Principal Secretary, Industries and Commerce, Devender Singh and Inspector General of Police Paramjit Ahlawat had found the allegations made in the report false and baseless," the DGP claimed earlier.

The Punjab and Haryana High Court on Wednesday took suo moto notice of media reports in this regard.

Justice Naresh Kumar Sanghi said the high court could not sit as a "mute spectator" to the reported incidents and that these needed to be probed by a "premier investigation agency".

IANS

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