SRINAGAR: A prominent human rights group Thursday said the minor girl student of Handwara, who is at the centre of raging protests across Kashmir, and her father, have been taken by Jammu and Kashmir Police into their custody.

The Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS), which is at the forefront of justice for victims of human rights abuses in the state, claimed it was approached by the family of the minor girl for “legal counsel and other support” following the accusations of sexual assault against the Army personnel.

Four persons were killed and nearly dozen have been injured in subsequent protests against the Army.

“The family of the girl state that she has been kept in police custody from 12 April to date. Last night, around 1 am, the father of the victim was called to the Handwara police station. He was accompanied by his brother. Since then his whereabouts are not known. The family has been denied access to both the minor girl and her father,” a JKCCS statement said.

The JKCCS alleged that the detention of the minor girl and her father appears to be an “attempt to further pressurize the family to withdraw all allegations” against the Army who officially released a video of the girl on Wednesday, wherein she is seen blaming two local youths for stirring up tensions.

Authorities have sealed the frontier Handwara town from the last two days with police and paramilitary forces turning away a group of journalists and some separatist leaders and activists who tried to enter the town on Thursday.

“The manner in which the video has been recorded and then circulated is a gross violation of the special protections afforded to minors particularly during investigation of sexual assault cases. The actions of the police and the army would necessarily invite criminal prosecution if investigated,” the JKCSS statement said.

The society said the family of the victim has appealed the state government to immediately release the minor girl and her father.

“The state under the garb of law and order is ensuring that all access to the family of the victim is denied so as to ensure protection to the armed forces personnel and seek to further distract from the crimes that have been committed – from the sexual assault to the killings. Any suggestion that the state is seeking to ‘protect’ the minor girl and family must be rejected in the circumstances of this case and the actions of the police. Any protection, if necessary, must be provided at the residence of the victim and not at the police station,” the JKCCS statement said.

Demanding immediate release of the girl and her father, the JKCCS team said the duo must be allowed access to legal counsel. “Government of Jammu and Kashmir must allow immediate and unhindered access for the legal counsel team of JKCCS to the victim and her family,” the statement added.

Several Kashmiris have expressed concern for the little girl who has come under severe pressure since rumours of the alleged molestation ignited violence. There is considerable anger that her identity is known with women from the Valley, in particular, worried about the stress the minor girl is undergoing from “all sides.”