Political leaders denied entry as government locks up Hathras after ‘gang rape, murder’ of Dalit woman by upper caste Hindu men

Uttar Pradesh: On September 14, in Hathras district of Uttar Pradesh state in India, a 19-year-old Dalit woman was abducted by a gang of four upper-caste Hindu men from the village’s Thakur community from the nearby agricultural field where she had gone for grass cutting.

Her mother says that she did not “notice the scuffle”, as she is hard of hearing, according to a report by The Wire.

However, barely few minutes had passed and she saw her daughter in a pool of blood a few feet away from her.

According to her mother, the young woman was badly assaulted – her tongue wounded, her spinal cord and neck severally bruised, which reportedly left her paralysed and she was not able to stand up.

Later, when the woman was driven to the hospital, her post-mortem report revealed that she was strangulated and had suffered severe injuries in her spine.

The marks on the neck of the victim are consistent with attempted strangulation reports claim.

“Alleged history of strangulation by some unknown persons from behind with dupatta while she was doing some work in the field on 14, 09, 2020 at around 4:10 pm, where on examination she was conscious and oriented to time, place and person, ligature mark was present over the front of her neck.” the report mentions.

Initially, there was no rape case lodged but only a case of attempt to murder and one under the Scheduled Caste/Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.

Later, on regaining conscious, when the woman gave a statement to police, a rape case was subsequently registered.

She was admitted first to a hospital in Hathras and later moved to the Jawaharlal Nehru Medical College and Hospital in Aligarh for advanced treatment.

More than a week later on September 27, Police arrested four persons including Sandeep (20), his uncle Ravi (35) and their friends Luv Kush (23) and Ramu (26). All four of them were named by the victim and remain under judicial custody.

Next day, as the woman’s condition deteriorated, she was rushed to the Safdurjung Hospital in Delhi; however, she could survive only a few hours in the hospital and succumbed to her injuries.

Fearing demonstrations, police later refused to hand over her body to the family. By then, several activists from various groups had reached the hospital and begun a dharna demanding justice for her.

A spokesperson of the hospital later confirmed that the woman’s legs had been completely paralysed and arms partially paralysed.

The woman’s brother in a reportby NDTV says that his family members had gone to the field to get some grass. While his elder brother went home earlier, his mother and sister continued to cut the grass and were quite far from each other. Four-five men come from behind and dragged his sister by her dupatta inside the bajra field.

On realising her daughter was missing, the mother goes looking for her and later finds her unconscious. In this regard, the victim’s have accused the Uttar Pradesh police of not helping them initially but took action only after four-five days.

However, the state police denied the allegations put on them by the family.

The deceased came from Valmiki samaaj, a large cluster of caste, recognised as scheduled castes or Dalits by the 2011 census of UP.

In the victim’s district, Valmiki families number just about 15. Out of the 600-odd families, nearly half are Thakur (upper-caste Rajputs), and Brahmins another 100-odd.

The village pradhan, denies any caste tension saying those who alleged so were “lying” and claiming that the Panchayat was for “everyone”.

“I can’t speak for all but I haven’t witnessed any such acts. I speak to people irrespective of their caste and listen to their complaints… This is a peaceful place” he says in an Indian Express report.

Besides others, the former Chief Minister of UP and Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati has demanded that the accused should be tried in a fast-track court.

“The news of the death of Dalit victim after gangrape in Hathras, UP is very saddening. The government should provide all possible help to the victim’s family and ensure fast punishment to the culprits by prosecuting them in a fast track court. This is the demand of the BSP,” she says.

Pertinently, a report released in January this year by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), Uttar Pradesh is ranked as the worst for women’s security, followed by Madhya Pradesh as the state where rape is most rampant.

The total number of cases of crime against women in 2018 stood at 378,277, of which Uttar Pradesh alone had 59,445 cases of crimes against women. Madhya Pradesh registered the maximum number of rapes at 5,450, nearly 15 a day.

The overall number of crimes against women has risen steadily from 322,929 in 2016, to 345,989 in 2017, and 378,277 in 2018.

On September 30, the widespread protests were witnessed across India backed by opposition parties’ including Indian National Congress.

The current CM of the UP state Yogi Adityanath has faced so much flak from the opposition and civil society alike over his handling of law and order situation in the state, which has been witness to multiple incidents of rapes, murders, and other brutal crimes in the recent past.

On Wednesday morning, the family said that they were not allowed to even look at the victim’s dead body before police hurriedly completed the last rites in the dead of the night, without any rituals that the family would have liked to perform, a report by The Wire said.

The family alleges that at around 2.30 am, they were locked up in the house by Uttar Pradesh Police and the body of their daughter was taken away for cremation.

“We folded our hands in front of the police but they were not convinced. We spread our pallus and begged them to let us see her. But this was not granted. If Yogi ji (Uttar Pradesh chief minister Adityanath) had children, he would have understood our plight. What will he understand about losing a child?” the victim’s mother was quoted further.

In contrast to the family version, local police officers told a news agency PTI that the victim was cremated “according to the wishes of the family”.

In this regard, the UP CM has formed a three-member SIT to investigate the incident and asked it to submit a report within seven days.

Facing protests and widespread outrage, the state government has also said that it would set up a fast track court to hear the case.

It has also announced a compensation of Rs 25 lakh for the victim’s family, a government job for a family member, and a house in Hathras city under the State Urban Development Agency.

Meanwhile, Bhim Army chief Chandra Shekhar Aazad and its Delhi unit head, Himanshu Balmiki, are detained by the Uttar Pradesh police while they were on their way to Hathras, accompanying the family of the deceased. However, senior Aligarh police officials have denied knowledge about the matter.

On the other hand, the Congress party is at the forefront of a state-wide campaign against the Bhartiya Janta Party over the issue.

The party’s General Secretary in-charge of the state Priyanka Gandhi pointed out a pattern of such crimes of sexual violence against women while highlighting similar incidents in Shahajahanpur and Gorakhpur in the recent past.

“The law and order situation in Uttar Pradesh has completely deteriorated. There is no sign of any safety for women. Criminals are roaming freely,” she alleged, demanding strict punishment for the guilty.

In a series of tweets, former Congress president Rahul Gandhi holds the UP government responsible for the death of the Dalit woman.

“All this is a shameful move of the UP government to suppress Dalits and show them their ‘place’ in the society. Our fight is against this hateful thinking,” Rahul Gandhi tweeted.

He had previously tweeted: “A daughter of India is raped, facts are suppressed, and in the end the right to funeral is also taken away from her family. It is abusive and unjust.”

On Wednesday, Priyanka Gandhi slammed the state police for cremating the woman’s body without her family’s consent. She sought the intervention of the Supreme Court immediately after the alleged police’s highhandedness and said that the “attitude of the UP government and police reflects poorly on their intention to ensure justice for the woman.”

Terming the Adityanath government as “insensitive” to the plight of women in the state, former Uttar Pradesh chief minister and Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav said: “there is no hope left from this insensitive government.”

He also lashes out at the police’s “insensitive action” on Tuesday night and alleged that the police officials were acting under pressure from the state government.

Even as Uttar Pradesh CM Adityanath set up a three-member Special Investigation Team to probe the case, BJP national general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya seemed to hint that the accused could be killed in an ‘encounter’, a report by The Wire mentions.

Vijayvargiya makes an “apparent reference” to the killing of gangster VikasDubey, who was killed after the vehicle carrying him toppled.

The police claimed Dubey shot at the cops, but many observers believe that he was killed in a “fake encounter”.

In Lucknow, youth Congress leaders, who were protesting outside the assembly were also lathi-charged, then detained and sent to prison for holding the protests.

Similar police action against party workers was reported from various districts of UP and in Delhi, where Youth Congress leader Amrita Dhawan and some others were dragged during a protest into a bus that was detaining protestors.

In the meantime, a petition has been filed before the Supreme Court asking for a stronger investigation. The petition seeks the transfer of investigation to CBI or a Special Investigation Team under a sitting or a retired judge of the Supreme Court or a high court.

Advocate Sanjeev Malhotra, who filed the petition on behalf of social activist Satyama Dubey, is quoted by LiveLaw as having said that the statement of the UP police that the cremation was carried out “as per the wishes of the family” is false.

Successive ground reports by several outlets have in fact proven that the victim’s family were denied the right to organise her cremation.

“The plea underlines the issue that the police authorities have not performed their duties and are shielding the accused. Additionally, the family of the victim is being victimised by upper-caste persons,” LiveLaw quoted Malhotra as having said.

On October 1, while on their way, on foot, to Hathras, former Congress president Rahul Gandhi and the party’s General Secretary in-charge of Uttar Pradesh Priyanka Gandhi were arrested by UP police and manhandled.

Rahul alleged that the police manhandled and pushed him to the ground. When Rahul asked why was he being stopped as he wanted to go to Hathras alone and not intending to violate Section 144, the police told him that they were arresting him under Section 188 IPC for violation of an order.

The two were accompanied by other Youth Congress leaders as they attempted to make their way towards Boolgarhi, the village in Hathras where the victim was living.

The Gandhis, who were held after a round of lathi-charge on them and other party workers, were brought back to New Delhi amidst tight security.

The two are held under Section 188 of IPC (pertaining to the disobedience of an order by a public servant).

Priyanka responds to the UP government’s explanation that the victim’s father has signed a letter in which he has urged political parties to stop their protests as he was satisfied with the administration’s action.

Priyanka posted a video clip of his father in which he is seen as saying that the district magistrate and administrative machinery put pressure on him to sign the said letter.

He is also seen as claiming that his family has been asked to not speak to journalists, and that their mobility has been restricted by officials. At the end of the video, he said that he wanted a CBI inquiry as he was not satisfied with UP police’s work.

“Is the government using threats to silence the family?” Priyanka asked.

In a surprising development, the UP police citing forensic reports have now said that there is no evidence the woman was raped.

Hathras superintendent of police Vikrant Vir said that the report by the Aligarh hospital, where she was admitted before she was brought to Safdarjung hospital does not confirm rape.

Meanwhile, the postmortem report from Safdarjung hospital where she was shifted on September 28 – 14 days after the incident – came out the day after she died in the hospital.

On Thursday, Vikrant Vir was quoted saying, “the medical report from the Aligarh Muslim University Medicinal College mentions that there were injuries but it does not confirm forced sexual intercourse. They are waiting for a report of the forensics. As of now, doctors say that they’re not confirming rape.”

Additional Director General (law and order) of Uttar Pradesh police Prashant Kumar has also said that “Forensic report makes clear the woman was not raped.”

“According to the postmortem report, the victim died due to the trauma of her neck injury. FSL report also clearly shows that sperm was not found in the collected samples. It suggests that some people twisted the matter to stir caste-based tension,” Kumar was quoted by ANI as having said.

“Police had taken timely action in the matter from the beginning. Further actions will be taken in the matter now. Those who twisted the matter in the media will be identified and legal actions will be taken against them,” he added.

Post-Mortem Report

The post-mortem report, mentioned in a TheWire report, specifies the time of her death as 6:55 am. A ligature mark was present in front of the victim’s neck, as per the report. The report also says that the victim died of a spinal cord injury.

The report, however, does not specify if rape had occurred. It says that there were multiple old, healed tears in the victim’s hymen. The uterus contained blood clots and the anal orifice showed old, healed tear, as per the report. The report also mentions blood present in the vagina, calling it “menstrual” blood.

The report added that the spinal injury which she had sustained was responsible for her paralysis and ultimately, her death. When the breathing stopped, CPR was performed.

meanwhile, the Allahabad High Court has summoned the UP Additional Chief Secretary, Police chief, Additional Director General of Police, Hathras District Magistrate and Superintendent of Police in the teen’s gang rape and murder case.

The cause of death in the report is specified as, “injury to the cervical spine (neck) produced by indirect blunt trauma, and its resultant sequelae. The ligature mark over the neck is consistent with attempted strangulation but did not contribute to death in this case.”

The post-mortem also mentioned that the cause of death will be confirmed by a chemical analysis report of the viscera. The hospital has handed over vital samples to the investigating officer in the case.

A video has been pushed on social media platforms to support the police’s version of events. BharatiyaJanata Party (BJP) Haryana IT cell head Arun Yadav tweeted, “Victim’s family did her last rites themselves.” He blamed the media for “propaganda”.

The video shows a person behind the camera questioning an elderly man’s relationship with the victim. While the old man is barely audible, people around him say, “Ladkike baba hai ye (He is the woman’s baba.)” The word “baba” could mean father, grandfather or an elderly male relative/acquaintance. The voice behind the camera then says, “Aap baba hona? (You’re her baba right?)” to which the man nods his head in affirmative. “Achathikhai (Alright then),” the person behind the camera says, following which the audio is muted for six seconds. The subsequent scenes show people, including the elderly man, performing rituals around the pyre.

The victim’s brother confirms to Alt News that no one from his family was permitted to attend the cremation. He also said that his grandfather died in 2006 which means that the elderly man in the video cannot be the woman’s grandfather.

The family even speak to NDTV and clarified that they were not allowed to attend the last rites of the young woman.


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