Talib Hussain, Key Witness in Kathua Case, Allegedly Assaulted in Custody

The police have refuted the claims of torture and said that Hussain hit himself on the head ‘out of frustration’.

New Delhi: Talib Hussain, who is a key witness in the Kathua gangrape and murder case, has allegedly been brutally assaulted inside the Samba police station where he is in police remand on charges of rape and possession of weapons. According to Hussain’s family, he was assaulted around lunch time on August 6.

“When lunch was being served, two civilians in the police station assaulted him. They repeatedly banged his head against the wall. The policemen present there, instead of protecting Talib, joined in the assault. They beat him severely,” a member of Hussain’s family told The Wire, preferring to remain anonymous.

According to another family member, some relatives had gone to meet Hussain in the afternoon and were denied entry. “We were told that we cannot meet him. We thought something was wrong. And when we asked a few people there, they told us that Talib had been beaten badly. They thought that he had died.”

However, Hussain’s family members later found out that he had been taken to a hospital in Samba. “According to people who saw him there, he was covered in blood when he was brought. His head was badly smashed and there were other injuries too,” said Hussain’s relative.

During the day, Supreme Court lawyer Indira Jaising also tweeted about the assault. She claimed that Hussain had been tortured while in custody and his skull fractured.

S.P. Vaid, director general of police Jammu and Kashmir, has refuted the claims of torture and told Scroll that Hussain hit himself on the head ‘out of frustration’. Vaid claimed that Hussain only sustained scratches.

“The police is lying. Talib has been injured grievously and the police are involved in this. There is a threat to his life because he is a key witness in the Kathua case,” said a relative.

The Bakarwal lawyer and activist led the demand for justice in the brutal rape and murder of an eight-year-old in Kathua earlier this year. He is also a key witness in the case which in May was transferred from Jammu to Pathankot by the Supreme Court which noted that holding a fair trial was ‘sacrosant’ and cannot co-exist with ‘fear’.

In January, The brutal gangrape and murder of a minor girl belonging to the Bakarwal community in Rasana village of Kathua district divided Jammu and Kashmir down the middle. Voices in the Hindu majority Jammu region saw the accusation of rape on Hindu men as an ‘attack’ on Hindus and Jammu. They accused the J&K police of having falsely implicated the men accused of the crime as it suited the political narrative of ‘Kashmir and separatist centric’ People’s democratic party led by Mehboobi Mufti, who was chief minister at the time.

Two ministers in her government belonging to coalition partner Bharatiya Janata Party held a march in February demanding that the accused be released and a CBI inquiry be initiated. After widespread outrage in April, the ministers were made to resign.

Once the case came into spotlight, the victim’s family had, as per their yearly schedule, migrated to higher pastures. In their absence, Talib Hussain, who belongs to the Bakarwal community, had led the demand for a fair probe. “They are extremely poor people and don’t know the ways of the world. They don’t understand what courts and justice systems are. But, we will ensure that that doesn’t come in the way of justice being served to them. For very long, Gujjars and Bakarwals have been denied justice,” Hussain had said at the time.

A few months later, Hussain’s estranged wife registered a complaint against him accusing him of domestic violence and attempted murder. A month after that, a woman accused Hussain of rape. He was arrested on August 2 in connection with the second case.

“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,” Hussain had told The Wire a few days prior to his arrest.

Meanwhile, the J&K police has registered a case against Talib Hussain under Section 309 (attempt to commit suicide) of the Ranbir Penal code ­ – the criminal code applicable in J&K.

Hussain’s family on Tuesday approached the Supreme Court with a habeas corpus writ petition claiming that Hussain has been kept in illegal detention and being subjected to custodial torture. A bench comprising Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices D.Y. Chandrachud and Indira Banerjee considered the submission and the apex court will hear the plea on August 8.