A high-level probe has been ordered into allegations of at least 10 women being raped by members of a mob in Murthal village in Haryana during the recent quota agitation by the Jat community.
Apart from top police officers from the State and members of the National Commission of Women conducting simultaneous probes, the Punjab and Haryana High Court also took suo motu cognizance of the alleged crime reported by a news daily.
However, the investigators claimed that their probe until Wednesday evening had not produced any eyewitness or victim of the alleged crime. “The Inspector General of Police and the Principal Secretary interacted with the individuals whose names were mentioned in the news report. Those persons have clarified that no such incident took place,” said a Haryana government spokesperson.
According to the report published in The Tribune newspaper, the unidentified victims were commuters returning to Delhi from the northern parts of the country when the incident took place around 3 am on Monday.
Vehicles were torched in Murthal near Sonipat and the women escaping from them were raped by the 30-odd members of a mob, the news report said, quoting eyewitnesses who did not want to be identified.
The report also claimed that most of the rape victims were rescued by residents of two nearby villages – Hassanpur and Kurad. Some of them were sheltered and provided clothes at two nearby dhabas.
Amrik Singh, owner of the popular Amrik Singh Dhaba in Murthal, said he and his employees offered shelter to many, including women, but none of them were victims of sexual assault.
Since the news report had mentioned Mr. Amrik Singh, he was questioned by the police and the NCW, but he denied any rape or molestation in the incident.
“It is possible that the rumours (about the rapes) spread after some local men found women’s undergarments on the roads. The undergarments were among other clothes that fell out of the commuters’ bags while they were being robbed by the mob,” said Mr. Amrik Singh.
Dozens of men and women in the three villages that The Hindu visited on Wednesday denied any incident of sexual assault and said they too had learnt about it only from the police and the newspaper report.
There was, however, no denying that women were beaten up with sticks and they hid in the fields to save themselves.
“The mob broke my car windows and beat us with sticks. They threatened to beat the women travelling with us, but they escaped by running into the wheat fields,” said an East Delhi resident who was returning home with his family after a visit to Vaishno Devi.
The man himself suffered several fractures in the assault. He, however, denied any attempt of rape on the women travelling with him.
He and his family are among several victims who are to be questioned by the police and the NCW in a bid to identify any possible rape victims.
Om Singh, a resident of the nearby Kurad village, said he sheltered and fed at least five women after finding them hiding in the fields.
“None of those women complained of any sexual assault,” Mr. Singh told Rekha Sharma, an NCW member who questioned him on Wednesday.
The police have dismissed the allegations as “rumours”.
The newspaper report, though, had alleged that the district officials had “reportedly” advised the women not to report the incident “for the sake of their honour”.