New Delhi: The report of the Special Investigation Team (SIT) of the Haryana government, which was submitted in the Punjab and Haryana High Court on the alleged gang rapes in Murthal, Sonepat, presents no evidence to suggest that any such instances of sexual violence was perpetrated during the violent quota agitation launched by the Jat community in Haryana in February. Firstpost has reviewed a copy of the SIT report.
Several media organisations, including this one, reported that women passengers on the national highway near Murthal were stopped in the early hours of Monday, 22 February, dragged into the nearby fields and gangraped.
Firstpost also ran two articles indicating that initial police investigations and a subsequent in-depth enquiry found no cause to include sexual assault and rape in the list of crimes committed during the riots.
The first news report containing references to instances of gangrape during the violence was published on 24 February in The Tribune. The article further accused the police of having advised the victims to not register complaints of sexual assault or rape.
The report quoted village elders Hari Krishan of Kurad, Zile Singh of Hassanpur and dhaba owner Jai Bhagwan, confirming the assaults. Video footage of women’s clothes strewn around the fields were later aired on several television channels.
Firstpost too ran an article (29 February) after a correspondent visited ground zero. His dispatch quoted two “victims" of sexual assault. But the local police authorities denied the report and claimed that the reporter had not spoken to the police officers quoted therein. A detailed internal inquiry revealed that the correspondent had not contacted any police officer and none of the statements of the “victims” could be corroborated. As a result, on 29 April, this website took the story down with this note from the editor:
"REPORT WITHDRAWN: On 29 February, 2016, Firstpost published a report by a staff correspondent headlined "Cops told us to be quiet for sake of honour', Survivors of Murthal violence describe their ordeal." After a detailed internal inquiry,
following a strong denial of the report by the local police, we were unable to corroborate the claims of the women quoted therein. Consequently, we are withdrawing the report with apologies to our readers. - Editor”
Taking cognisance of all the reports in the media, the Punjab and Haryana High Court asked the Haryana government to submit its reply, for which an investigation was launched. Here is the full text of the SIT report which raises serious questions for the media.
Here are the major points from the report:
-The SIT visited women's hostels in several cities including, Ambala, Sonipat, Panipat, Panchkula etc, and examined 179 female students who left the hostels on 20 and 21 February. Call detail records of some of them were also examined, which revealed that none of those students were travelling to Murthal or were present at the time when the alleged incident took place.
-The panel concluded that no further action was needed on the letter sent by an NRI, since it was allegedly written by one of the victims. The team had contacted one of the NRI women in Australia, who stated that they had not left the airport that day, and had stayed at an airport hotel. The Foreigners Regional Registration Office (FRRO) also confirmed the statement about the hotel booking.
-A Firstpost correspondent, who had a recorded conversation of the mother of the rape victim, was contacted by the SIT on 9 April. He was asked to meet the team the next day. However, the next day, he said that he could not meet the SIT as his wife was unwell, after which the panel decided not to contact him anymore.