New Delhi: Section 144 was imposed in Hathras, Uttar Pradesh on Friday to stop gatherings in the village of the Dalit woman who succumbed to her injuries 15 days after she was allegedly gangraped by four upper caste men.
Since then, there has been uproar all over the country to seek justice for the victim, and the case has received wide media coverage since the woman was cremated during the early hours of September 29. The family alleges the cremation was done in haste by the UP police, without their consent. Three days after this, Hathras was sealed and section 144 was imposed for one month.
But this did not prevent supporters of the four accused – upper caste men belonging to the Thakur community – from rallying in their support. Organised by a local BJP leader, former Hathras MLA Rajveer Pahalwan, the protest was attended by right wing groups such as the Bajrang Dal, Karni Sena and the RSS, some members of which are also part of caste-based organisations such as the Rashtriya Savarna Sangathan and Kshatriya Mahasabha.
Hundreds of people, including family members of the four accused, gathered outside Pahalwan’s house on Sunday to demand justice for the four accused.
Even as the victim’s family members have been asking for a judicial probe to be conducted in the case, UP chief minister Yogi Adityanath on Saturday recommended a CBI probe into the Hathras case. The rally in support of the accused also welcomed the possibility of the CBI taking over the probe. Pahalwan said, to this, “The truth shall come out [then]. It was falsely projected that such a heinous rape has happened in Hathras. A CBI investigation into the case will reveal the truth about the incident.” At the same time, he also expressed concern over the victim’s family refusing to take the narco-analysis or the lie-detector test.
On Section 144 being imposed in Hathras, he said, “This gathering has been held at my personal space. It didn’t require any permission from authorities.” Pahalwan also made the claim that the four accused were not guilty, even though the investigation has not been completed.
Pahalwan’s son, Manveer Singh, denied that the gathering only comprised members of the upper castes and said that people from different sections of society had joined the protest. He also accused the Congress and the Samajwadi Party of trying to influence the victim’s family. He then added that several legal options were being explored to defend the accused. He also claimed that the accused being arrested from their homes was “proof” of their “innocence”. He claimed that they would have run away from their homes, had they been guilty.
Some members in the rally also claimed that it was possible that the woman was killed by her own family, alleging that it was a case of honour killing. This theory echoes one that was being floated in the village by some upper caste families when The Wire visited the village after the victim’s cremation. The woman’s family deny these claims. The woman had also made a dying declaration on September 22, in which she said she was raped and identified the four men who assaulted her.