On March 5, 2021, a 6-year-old child was abducted while going for her tuition from Hallo Majra colony, close to Tribune chowk. Even after searching her for hours there was no sign of her whereabouts. In the early hours of March 6, 2021, the semi-naked body of the child was found.Angered by the callous police response people blocked the nearby Chandigarh-Ambala road. Upon hearing the news, activists of the city also reach the spot who tried to manage the situation by appealing to the growing resentment in the crowd.
After a couple of hours, when the police finally agreed to give the written assurance of arresting the accused and of speedy justice, the protesters decided to leave the highway and marched inside the colony. But just as they were about to leave, police started lathi charging them from behind.
The police officers arrested Amandeep Singh(25) from Punjab Students Union, Vaibhav Chhabra(25) from Naujawan Bharat Sabha, and a resident of Hallo Majra, Gopal(27). Without any concrete evidence, these three have been booked under the following sections of the IPC:147 (rioting),149 (unlawful assembly) and four other sections, viz: 323,332,341,353 which are mainly non-bailable offences. The youth have also been assaulted in police custody.
The girl who lived with her parents and two siblings in Hallo Majra village went missing last Friday after she had gone out to play. The police arrested a 12-year-old boy Saturday afternoon (March 6, 2021) who lived in her neighbourhood on the basis of CCTV footage which showed the girl riding a pillion on a bicycle being paddled by the boy Friday evening.
The arrest of student activists
Vaibhav, a student of Sociology at Punjab University is from Hanumangarh but has been residing in Chandigarh for many years. Vaibhav is an active member of Naujawan Bharat Sabha and teaches at tuition run by the organization for free of cost in Hallomajra. Vaibhav while a student at DAV College, Chandigarh was actively involved with the struggle against the indiscriminate fee hike at Punjab University in 2017. He also was an active member of the struggle against three farm laws and the implementation of Punjabi in Chandigarh. He was an active participant in the anti-CAA-NRC protests, etc.
Amandeep Singh a Library Sciences student of Punjab University is currently a State Committee Member of Punjab Students Union (Lalkar) and a student at Punjab University. Amandeep has been also active in various struggles on student issues for the last six years. Earlier in April 2017, during the students’ struggle against the illegal increase in fees at Punjab University, an FIR was registered against him along with others, the hearings for which are still going on.
Naujawan Bharat Sabha in their press statement has protested against the arrested young activists. In this statement the organisation has said, ‘In the case of the rape-murder of a Hallo Majra girl, Amandeep, like many others, could have remained silent, ‘worrying’ about his exams which are scheduled for next week. So he went that day to raise his voice in favour of the victim. And now the Chandigarh police and other corrupt leaders call him a ‘provocative element’ who had come to Hallo Majra from outside. They have registered an FIR under 6 sections against the arrested.’
‘The three youth have been assaulted in police custody. Vaibhav and Amandeep have slip discs in their back and their health can progressively worsen if they are not given immediate medical attention,’ says the press statement.
Their bail was also rejected by the magistrate on March 8, 2021, stating that the police required more time to investigate the events on March 6, 2021. When asked on what grounds the arrests were made, sector 31 Investigating Officer Motiram stated the reason to be the blocking of a highway. But, none of the sections in the FIR state this fact. Investigating Officer Motiram failed to answer why the FIR did not contain a single mention of the blockade but included 6 baseless offences with no evidence.