“My biggest regret is that I missed all my third semester exams… Now, the college authorities have asked me to not attend classes due to security reasons, and directly come to write the exam. They said that they are ‘under pressure’.”
After 50 days in prison, Sonu Mansuri is now back at her home, at Boranwa in Madhya Pradesh’s Khargone district, but is hesitant to step out. The first person in her family to have enrolled for a graduate degree, she wants to become a criminal lawyer but worries that her career is likely to be affected by the case against her.
Life changed in January for the second-year law student while she was interning at the Indore district court. She was arrested after being heckled and termed a “PFI agent” by a group of lawyers linked to Hindutva outfits. She was accused of impersonating a lawyer, filming court proceedings, and leaking them to banned outfit PFI. With local lawyers citing alleged threats to not argue her bail plea in Madhya Pradesh, a group of advocates had subsequently moved the Supreme Court, which granted Sonu relief nearly two months after her arrest.
Newslaundry had earlier reported on the as well as the allegation by her family that local lawyers were Sonu in court.
Due to the absence of a lawyer, Sonu could not approach the court to demand directions to the jail authorities to make arrangements for her to appear for the exam. She later requested authorities at the Dewas government law college to take her third semester exams. “But they said I will have to repeat the third semester this time.”
Dr Ajay Chauhan, the college’s principal, denied that they have told her to stop coming to college. “We don’t have any problem with her attending regular classes if she wants. She has missed her chance to appear for the examinations and we cannot provide her any special provision to give her third semester exams now. She has to repeat the semester,” Chauhan said.
‘Media almost declared me a terrorist, assassinated my character’
Newslaundry had earlier reported on how sections of the media had reported on the case after her arrest in January, without seeking Sonu’s version, labelling her a PFI agent.
During her seven-day police custody, Sonu alleged that certain mediapersons at the police station managed to interact with her. “But when I came out of the jail, I found out that none of what I told the journalists got published, instead they made up conspiracy theories.”
Sonu’s portrayal in the media even reached the confines of the Indore Central Jail, where she was lodged in judicial custody. “For the first week, there were muffled conversations among old inmates that I was a terrorist, and that no one should talk to me,” she said, adding that “things were pathetic”.
“When I came out of jail, I realised that the media almost declared me a terrorist. They linked me to PFI without even knowing the facts. They didn’t report what I told them and wrote whatever they felt like and assassinated my character.”
‘Bharat Jodo Yatra, namaz, PFI and Dawood Ibrahim’
The 21-year-old claimed that during her initial police custody, she was probed by more than five different investigative teams over a period of seven days, not allowed to meet her family or even change clothes. “For seven days straight, I was interrogated from morning till midnight.” Sonu said she would be brought to the MG Road police station every morning, and taken to the women’s police station post-midnight.
“There was no communication with my family or anyone,” she claimed. Her family was subsequently allowed to meet her in prison, Sonu said, adding that she fainted in jail when she was informed by her sister that there was “surmounting pressure on lawyers to not represent the case”.
Namaz, madrasa, Pakistan and PFI were a recurrent theme in the questions, she said, adding that she has “not been to a madrasa ever”. Sonu was reportedly also asked whether she knew Dawood Ibrahim, and if she was hiding her real identity. The police also allegedly asked whether she had connections with certain participants of the Bharat Jodo Yatra.
“They all asked me the same questions – whether I went to a madrasa, how many times a day do I offer namaz, how many times have I travelled to Pakistan and if I have connections there. They also asked me how I got in touch with the PFI. When I asserted that I haven’t, they repeatedly forced me to accept that I have studied in a madrasa and have connections in Pakistan and PFI.”
“They showed me photographs of Bharat Jodo Yatra and a woman with Rahul Gandhi, and asked if I knew her.”
MG Road police station SHO Santosh Yadav did not provide details of the interrogation. However, he denied any communal line of questioning. “Who told you about this? We have not asked such questions. Somebody has given you wrong information.”…
This story was originally published in newslaundry.com. Read the full story here