Akhil Bharatiya Samaj Sewa Sansthan

Arrested for Helping a Distressed Woman

Is the police so untouched by all the outcry against atrocities on women that it allows the perpetrators of injustice to go scot-free while arresting those who tried to protect the harassed women?

This is precisely what was happened recently in the Banda districts of Uttar Pradesh.

To tell the tragic story briefly. Mamta Sharma is one of those tragically numerous women in the country who are married on at a very young age only to face harassment and assault in their husband's home. The only redeeming feature in Mamta's case was that she courageously decided to straggle for a few life and in this endeavour she was also able to find a new helpful friends. She worked for some time at a Akhil Bharatiya Samaj Sewa Sansthan (ABSSS), where she found a badly needed sympathy and help. However, when the treats from the relatives become too much to bear, she decided to leave for Delhi in the company of friends who promised her legal help to protect her from further harassment.

However, the revengeful family got into touch with the local land-grabbers (against the ABSSS) and the two together with the local corrupt police official conspired to create trouble for the ABSSS and its leader, Gaya Prasad Gopal.

Acting on totally false and mischievous allegations of the abduction of the girl, the local police raided the office of the ABSSS and arrested its leading functionaries. These included a journalist not working for the ABSSS but sympathetic to it, who happened to be present in the office at that time. The five persons were detained at the police station for two days. During these two days the worst insult, abuses and humiliations were inflicted on them. The language used by the police daroga against the social workers would have shamed the worst outlaws. It is only when the Delhi based NGOs and social activists repeatedly assured the district level authorities on telephone that the girl in question was safe in Delhi, and she had given a statement that she had received nothing but help and sympathy from the ABSSS, that some action was finally taken to release the social activists.

This sordid story raised an important question. When a socially concerned person takes an initiative to help a harassed woman badly in need of such help will the police arrest him merely on the complaint of someone without bothering in the least to investigate into the complaint? In the present case, it was well know to the local police and also the district level officials that the person against whom the complaint has been lodged is one of the most responsible and distinguished social workers of the districts. Several times the district level officials have attended the meetings called by the ABSSS to focus attention on the plight of the weaker sections and several times they have sought the help of the ABSSS to implement anti-poverty measures.

The appreciation of the ABSSS work of several officials and other senior persons in on record it must have been therefore, clear to the officials that such a person or organisation could not have been involved in the abduction of a girl. The more complaint of a persons known locally to have harassed an innocent girl was enough for the local police to launch an all-out offensive against the ABSSS.

UNDER the circumstances, it is widely believed that the entire sordid episode was the result of an meeting of the selfish interests of the family bent on harassing the innocent girl, the local landowners who have grabbed the land meant for the poorest sections and the corrupt policemen. During the detention of the ABSSS activists in the police station, the daroga was constantly in touch with the land-grabbers. In a district that has become notorious for fake encounter deaths, anything could have happened if wisher counsel had not prevailed among senior officials. As idea of cruelty that goes on the police station at Manikpur (Banda) can be had from the fact that while the social workers were detained., a pregnant Kol tribal woman was also brought here. She was dragged and beaten and later she had an abortion. It is time now to fully investigate the action of the local police in the light of this and other incidents so that in future this kind of unjust and revengeful action against social activists can be avoided.

Bharat Dogra, Mainstream, October 9, 1993

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