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Dubai: Talib Hussain, a key witness in the Kathua rape case where an 8-year-old girl was gangraped and killed in a temple in Jammu and Kashmir, was allegedly assaulted inside police custody, leaving tweeps furious.

And in a further bizarre twist, apparently the state’s police has registered a case against Talib Hussain under Section 309 (attempt to commit suicide) of the Ranbir Penal code ­ – the criminal code applicable there.

Hussain’s name became a top online trend today and has more than 6,000 tweets.

The brutal rape and murder of the minor Asifa Bano, a member of a nomadic Bakarwal community in January this year, shocked India. Hussain spearheaded a campaign seeking justice for the child.

As per reports from the Indian independent news site - The Wire - a few months later, Hussain’s estranged wife registered a complaint against him accusing him of domestic violence and attempted murder. Within a short while, another woman accused him of rape. Hussain was arrested on August 2, last week, on charges of the second case.

He told the website prior to his arrest: “These are false cases filed against me because I am fighting for justice for the eight-year-old who was brutally raped and murdered. There is no truth to all these claims. I will continue to fight.”

The social activist and lawyer was apparently brutally assaulted in police lockup, according to a report by the newspaper The New Indian Express.

Lawyer Deepika Singh Rajawat told the newspaper that Hussain’s aunt had gone to meet him in the Samba district jail, where upon her leaving, she heard “cries from inside the lockup”.

The lawyer said: “As she rushed inside the police station, she saw two men beating Hussain. His aunt raised a hue and cry and policemen rushed there. She said instead of intervention, the policemen joined their colleagues in beating him.”

Meanwhile, The Wire reported that when family members went to visit him, they were not allowed to meet Hussain. They later found out that he had been admitted to a hospital in Samba.

A relative is quoted as saying: “According to people who saw him there [hospital], he was covered in blood when he was brought. His head was badly smashed and there were other injuries too.”

But, the director general of police Jammu and Kashmir has denied claims of torture, alleging that Hussain “hit himself on the head ‘out of frustration’, in an attempt to commit suicide.” Hence, the suicide charge.

People on social media have responded strongly to the news.

Tweep @shahiddjk_ posted: “Talib Hussain has been tortured in police custody. He’s a key witness in the Kathua gang-rape and murder case and led the campaign for justice for the victim. Fake charges are being levelled against him and he is being tortured by police … his life is in danger.”

Supreme Court lawyer Indira Jaising also tweeted about the issue and said: “Action alert: Talib Hussain - who was arrested last week - has been tortured in Samba police station while on police remand, skull broken, rushed to hospital in Samba, he is a key witness in the Kathua gang rape-murder case. This is unacceptable in a democracy.”

Her post was liked and retweeted more than 2,000 times.

Tweep @henaKausar19 echoed similar sentiments: “Silent activism is no crime. We should stop harassing agents of change.”

While some people demanded justice for Hussain, others wanted the allegations against him to be substantiated. Tweeps asked if the witness was being silenced or if the police were trying to cover up their tracks.

Asifa Bano died in January 2018. She was lured by a man, drugged and raped repeatedly for a period of three days by a group of men in a Hindu temple. Her body was later found in a forest.

The savage attack was apparently politically driven, as suspects confessed they wanted to drive her nomadic community out of the area. The discussion escalated and ultimately became a conflict between Hindus and Muslims, with ministers of the ruling BJP government getting involved in the defence of the accused. They were later made to resign.