Journalists allowed to meet Hathras gang-rape victim's family after outrage
The Uttar Pradesh government, led by BJP's Yogi Adityanath, sent at least 300 police officers to lock down the Bulgaddhi village in Hathras, where a 19-year-old Dalit woman was gang-raped and assaulted. Journalists and politicians found it impossible to breach the Hathras fortress the entire day yesterday. But in a welcome development, the administration has now let reporters enter. Here's everything that went down.
On September 14, the woman was dragged, raped, and dumped by four men of upper caste, who have been arrested. After initially being treated at an Aligarh Hospital, she was shifted to Delhi's Safdarjung Hospital. She passed away on Tuesday. Hours after her death, senior cops performed her last rites rather hurriedly, spurning requests from the family to take her home one last time.
As police's laxity after she was raped and their actions post her demise received ire, dozens of journalists flocked toward Hathras to understand the bereaved family's version. They were stopped at the main road, and weren't allowed to go through fields, either. Politicians Derek O'Brien (Trinamool), Rahul and Priyanka Gandhi (Congress), had a rough showdown with cops. They also failed in meeting the family.
Meanwhile, in brief conversations with media yesterday, the family admitted they were locked down. "DM came and said when the media is not being let in, how are our videos going viral. It seems they are listening to our phones," the victim's brother told IE. On Friday morning, the victim's cousin managed to escape surveillance and inform the media about heavy police presence.
The teenager said he knew the secret routes, hence, was able to escape. "My uncle (victim's father) also made an unsuccessful attempt to escape from the village with me. They have seized our mobile phones," the teenager said, as per HT. Another villager, who escaped citing medical emergencies, said the women in the house haven't been able to visit toilets as policemen are stationed outside.
Subsequently, the administration defended its high-handedness, saying restrictions will be lifted after SIT leaves. Aligarh Range IG Piyush Mordia said, "Apart from all the police stations of Hathras, police personnel from Mathura, Agra, Aligarh, Kasganj and Etah have been deployed. We have been on 12-hour duty for three days now." Notably, the cops wore riot gear and came armed with lathis.
According to IE, there were at least 12 police vehicles, three trucks, two buses, and two fire tenders around the village. The guard wasn't let down even at night. "Duty changes at 8 pm. We have been ordered to patrol the village, lanes, and farms, and to maintain vigil at night too," an officer said. Section 144 of CrPC was also imposed.
Just as the police's action dominated headlines and social media, the UP government swung to action, suspending police officers. Five cops, including Superintendent of Police Vikrant Vir, were suspended after SIT filed its initial report, blaming them for mismanagement. SIT also called for narco, or lie detector, tests for the arrested accused, and the victim's family.
Today, former Congress President Rahul Gandhi tweeted that nothing can stop him from meeting the bereaved family. In another tweet, he wrote, "I do not accept the treatment being done by the UP government and its police with the girl and her family." Congress said a delegation led by him, and his sister Priyanka Gandhi, will meet the family today.
"[They will] demand justice for the victim and her family who have been denied justice and severely traumatized by the BJP Government in their desperate attempt to hide the truth of the heinous crime perpetrated on the victim," Congress said.
Last evening, BJP veteran Uma Bharti posted a series of tweets, telling Adityanath that the way he handled the case was wrong. Bharti, who tested coronavirus positive and is recuperating, said she would have visited the family if her health allowed. "You have a very clean image. I request you to allow media and other political parties to meet the aggrieved family," she said.
"We have just laid foundation stone of the Ram Temple and have claimed to bring Ram Rajya to the country ahead but due to the suspicious actions of the police on this incident, the image of UP government and BJP has been hit," she added.
Yesterday, a massive protest demanding justice for the family was held at New Delhi's Jantar Mantar. Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, actor Swara Bhaskar, and Bhim Army Chief Chandrashekhar Azad joined the chorus, asking for an end to violence against women. "I request the Uttar Pradesh government with my hands folded, hang the guilty as soon as possible," Kejriwal reportedly said.