Murthal, Aman Sharma, ET
Among the popular eateries here the most thriving business is of Amrik Sukhdev Dhaba, near which it is alleged women were pulled out of cars and raped. The spot is on the turn to Jat-dominated Hasanpur village and next to a village school.
After Punjab and Haryana HC took cognisance of a media report, an allwoman Special Investigative Team has descended here and a toll-free number is set up for victims to call in.
A woman from Narela in Delhi on Sunday lodged an FIR of gang rape, naming seven persons, including three of her relatives, for raping her and her minor daughter in Murthal on the night of February 22 (not Feb 21).
“Prima facie this seems to be a family dispute…the woman has mentioned her brother in law’s name in FIR,“ SIT Chief, DIG Rajshree Singh said.
Also, recovery of women’s clothes littered at the spot is being seen as telltale sign of a horrific sexual assault, but villagers in Hasanpur dismiss them to be of a nomadic tribe camping there till recently .
So where does the truth lie?
SAVIOURS OR TORMENTORS?
Hasanpur villagers are angry . “Our people, including woman, were sitting on NH 1 after blocking it on February 21 -next to the spot where you people say rapes took place. How is it possible? Police is harassing our youths,“ village head Jai Narayan told ET.
He claimed that villagers saved the eateries, including Sukhdev Dhaba and Haveli, from being vandalised.
Owners of these eateries confirmed this. “The locals surrounded our perimeter and ensured not even a glass pane was broken,“ said Amrik Singh, owner of Sukhdev Dhaba. “I called the village heads as I feared my dhaba will be burnt. They assured me the eateries were the pride of the village and no harm would come to them,“ he said.
Narayan said, “Will villagers who saved the dhabas pull out women and rape them?“
POLICE IN DENIAL
Sonepat police insist that there has been no incident of rape and that media reports in this regard are based on hearsay and rumours.
Internet is shut here to stop spreading of rumours on social media.
DSP (Ganaur) Satish Sharma said none of the 12 families whose cars were burnt near Sukhdev Dhaba told them of any incident of rape.
His boss, Sonepat SP Abhishek Garg said Sukhdev Dhaba has 100s of CCTVs, including those covering NH1. “We have studied the footage. There is no recording of any rape or molestation incident,“ he said, refuting media claims that disrobed women ran to Sukhdev Dhaba for help.
Amrik Singh, the Dhaba owner, said no woman approached him complaining of rape. “I didn’t shelter any such woman.“ Owners of Pehalwan and Shiv Dhaba in the vicinity -where also families took shelter -too, said no family complained of rape.
The all-woman SIT headed by Gurgaon DIG Rajshree Singh is working independently here as there were allegations that Sonepat police is trying to hush up the incident.
DIG Singh said the complaint of the Narela woman has been lodged and will be probed. “Three truck drivers spoke to media on Saturday . We spoke to two of them -they deny any molestationrape and say it’s more a media frenzy ,“ she said.
COUNTER CLAIMS OF HORROR
Truck drivers Niranjan Singh, Yadhvendra Singh and Abdul Hamir told journalists on Saturday that they saw youths misbehave with women on NH 1 on the night of February 21 and drag them into the fields after tearing their clothes.
A Delhi woman, Babita, said rioting men targeted her family . “I locked myself inside the car. They kept banging on the window and wanted me to come out. My husband Satish suffered a fractured arm. We later hid in the fields; they came back to burn our car,“ Babita told police. She said she heard cries of other women and men for help. The mayhem is evident a kilometre from the spot where an amusement park, Jurasik Park, has been subjected to arson.
Fear reigns as the Murthal NH 1 stretch has strong paramilitary presence, including at Omaxe residential township near Sukhdev Dhaba.