New Delhi: After a secretly recorded video of the Hathras district magistrate (DM) issuing a veiled threat to the Dalit gang rape victim’s father was leaked, the local administration has been increasing pressure on the family to change their statement.
The accused in this case are Thakurs, an influential upper caste community.
On Thursday, what appeared to be a leaked video showing DM Praveen Laxkar at the house of the victim’s family was released on social media platforms by Congress general secretary Randeep Singh Surjewala.
सुनिए हाथरस के DM ने लड़की के पिता से क्या कहा: मीडिया आज यहॉं है, कल नहीं रहेगी. सब चले जायेंगे।
आप सरकार की बात मान लो, शर्मनाक।
— Randeep Singh Surjewala (@rssurjewala) October 1, 2020
The 19-year-old Dalit woman had been dragged away from the fields where she was cutting grass and brutally raped by four Thakur men in her village on September 14. She succumbed to her injuries at Delhi’s Safdarjung hospital two weeks later on September 29. Even with media on the ground, police forced the cremation of the victim after midnight on Wednesday (September 30), by locking up the family.
In the video that has been secretly shot, DM Laxkar is seen sitting inside the premises of the family’s residence and advising the father to soften his stance.
“Half of the media people have left today, the other half will leave by tomorrow. Only we will stand with you. It is up to you whether you want to change your statement or not,” Laxkar is heard saying.
Laxkar is also known to have enforced the illegal azaan ban in Hathras, along with other DMs, which the Allahabad high court overturned.
The victim’s family has been demanding a probe by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). Incidentally, the entire village has been sealed from outside, with no media personnel being allowed to visit and talk to the family. As per latest media reports, the family claimed that mobile phones of all members have been taken away. Seema Kushwaha, who was Nirbhaya’s lawyer in the 2012 Delhi gangrape case, said that the administration did not allow her to meet the family.
— News24 (@news24tvchannel) October 2, 2020
The family (of alleged gangrape victim) has called me to #Hathras as they want me to stand as their legal counsel. I'm not being allowed to meet them as administration says it'll affect law & order situation: Seema Kushwaha, lawyer of victim in 2012 Delhi gangrape case pic.twitter.com/BC0B1wF7Vm
— ANI UP (@ANINewsUP) October 1, 2020
Following outrage over the video, Laxkar spoke to news agency ANI and denied that he tried to make them change their statements.
I met with 6 family members of the victim yesterday & we spoke for about an hour & a half. I met with them again today to see their point of discontent. I deny the negative rumours which are rife about my interactions with them: PK Laxkar, District Magistrate, Hathras pic.twitter.com/aY1UGeI0rr
— ANI (@ANI) October 1, 2020
“Their main point of apprehension is that the convicted must be punished and be hanged to death. I tried to allay their fears and told them that the matter would be tried in a fast track court,” he added.
The father of the victim, according to media reports, claimed that he was being forced to go to the local police station and sign a document saying they were “satisfied by the police probe” in the case. The document had already been signed by three other family members on instructions of police officials.
“But we are not satisfied with this. My daughter’s case should be probed by the CBI and monitored by a Supreme Court judge. We are under pressure from officials and confined to our home while the media has also been disallowed from meeting us,” he said, as per a video shared by Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra on Twitter.
हाथरस की बेटी के पिता का बयान सुनिए।
उन्हें जबरदस्ती ले जाया गया। सीएम से वीसी के नाम पर बस दबाव डाला गया। वो जांच की कार्रवाई से संतुष्ट नहीं हैं।
अभी पूरे परिवार को नजरबंद रखा है। बात करने पर मना है।
क्या धमकाकर उन्हें चुप कराना चाहती है सरकार?
अन्याय पर अन्याय हो रहा है। pic.twitter.com/6lIW1hdvDc
— Priyanka Gandhi Vadra (@priyankagandhi) October 1, 2020
The Wire managed to speak with the brother of the victim who claimed that the family was under constant surveillance of police authorities. “Our family is under detention. We cannot get out of the house. Can’t go to the bathroom. Cannot talk to anybody.”
According to the victim’s sister-in-law, the district magistrate had been intimidating the family during his interaction at their house. “Yesterday, he took my father-in-law from the house and told him to tell media that everything is fine and that there is no pressure”.
The DM allegedly told the family that pursuing the case may prove counter-productive for them, Dainik Bhaskar reported.
“When I asked him, ‘How could we not see her?’ he said, ‘Do you understand the meaning of post mortem?’ He said that in a post mortem they split the skull, they throw away the innards… They cut from the throat to the abdomen with a knife,” the sister-in-law told Bhaskar, of her argument with the district magistrate.
He also apparently told the family on October 1 itself that there was no case of rape and indicated that they had concocted the matter to get compensation.
“The DM was saying that it was rape, and if she died from the corona, would you have gotten compensation? He was speaking as if we were waiting for a person to die. Do we need their compensation after such an accident? If he had a daughter and this happened to her, would he take compensation? When I said this to him, he started to shout and scold me”.
The local authorities’ claim that the criminal case was not a matter of rape was bolstered by Uttar Pradesh additional director general of police (law and order) Prashant Kumar. “Post mortem report says the victim died due to her neck injury. The forensic science laboratory (FSL) report hasn’t found sperm in samples, making it clear that some people twisted the matter to stir caste-based tension. Such people will be identified and legal action will be taken,” news agency ANI quoted Kumar as having said.