“The SHO pulled me by my hair and dragged me inside the gypsy. I kept crying. ..There was no lady constable. I was pushed inside forcibly and SHO sir kept hurling abuses.” Three weeks after an 18-year-old graduate student, and two of her friends, lived through an alleged moral policing horror inside the Jaitu police station, the girl spoke out for the first time about her one-hour ordeal.
Choking several times while recalling the events of January 12, the girl speaking exclusively to The Indian Express said, “I was standing at the bus stand at around 1.45 pm with my two friends (both boys) and suddenly SHO sir (then Jaitu SHO Gurmeet Singh) came. He asked, ‘Why are you standing here?’ We told him that we were students of Punjabi University’s regional college and were waiting for a Punjab Roadways bus. He said give me your mobile phones….I said, ‘Sir I don’t have a phone’. He said sit in the police gypsy. I asked, ‘Why? What is my crime?’ He then forced my two friends to sit in the gypsy. They sat, but I refused. The SHO then pulled me by my hair and dragged me inside. I kept crying. I told him to check my ID card and call my parents. There was no lady constable. I was pushed inside forcibly and SHO sir kept hurling abuses. He used derogatory words for me in Punjabi,” said the girl, speaking over the phone to The Indian Express.
According to the girl, both boys were thrashed mercilessly in front of her, and the constables were then ordered to beat her too, but they refused.
“They (boys) were asked to remove their shoes and then policemen hit their soles with sticks. We kept saying, ‘Sir, we are students, we did nothing wrong. We were just waiting for bus’. But he did not listen. As my friends were being beaten, he said, ‘Iss kudi nu vi lamma paayo, hun ehdi vaari hai (now it’s her turn, beat her too)’. That is when other constables objected and asked him to spare me. They said, ‘Sir, this is not right, what is her mistake? How can we thrash a girl’,” she said.
The girl alleged that the Gurmeet Singh even ordered him men to make her smell socks of her friends.
“He told his constables to make me smell socks of my friends. They denied to do so and said sir why are you doing this to a girl. What is her fault? I begged and cried. I said sir please call my parents. My friends also kept begging him to call their parents…The feet and legs of my friends swelled up, but the beating did not stop. Some constables objected, but the SHO did not utter a word..I was asked to leave at around 2.45 pm, but my friends were released at 6.30 pm,” she said.
But Inspector Gurmeet Singh denies all allegations. Speaking to The Indian Express, the police officer, who has since been shifted to police lines, said that he did not take the students to the police station with him. “We just told students at the bus stand not to stand there unnecessarily… I never took anyone to the police station….Also, it creates a bad impression among public, when students stand unnecessarily at public places. So, we just got a little strict after receiving complaints from some residents,” he said.
The mother of the girl, however, questioned if her daughter committed a crime by standing with her friends at the bus stand. “We would not be able to forget what our daughter and two other boys went through that day. We live in a small town and here even if the girl is not wrong, she is blamed for everything and people gossip about her. But I want justice for my daughter who was harassed for no reason. Did she commit any crime standing at bus stand with her friends?” she said.
It was during a students’ protest demanding apology from Gurmeet Singh that DSP Baljinder Singh Sandhu shot himself dead. Speaking about the incident, the girl said: “When we narrated the entire incident to DSP sir, he kept apologising to me. He said sorry at least ten times on the behalf of the SHO. We said, ‘sir we do not want an apology from you. We want Gurmeet Singh to realise his mistake and apologise’. He assured us of getting an apology from him…Whenever we met DSP sir, he felt ashamed and started apologising on his behalf.”
About the DSP’s death, she added: “We had no idea that our insistence on an apology from him would lead to all this….I and my friends now feel guilty about DSP sir’s death…”