New Delhi: It has nearly 1.5 months since a 19-year-old Dalit woman was gang-raped and brutalised in Hathras, Uttar Pradesh, and a month since she succumbed to her injuries in a Delhi hospital.
Throughout this period, actions of the Uttar Pradesh police and administration have come under question, with the victim’s family, civil society activists and others alleging that they are trying to protect the Thakur accused. On Tuesday (October 27), the Supreme Court has said that the Allahabad high court can monitor the Central Bureau of Investigation probe in the case.
At around 9:30 am, the victim and her mother went to work in the fields of Boolgarhi village, Hathras district. They were working in the fields of Thakur villagers. The family would often go to these fields to collect grass for their cattle.
The mother, about 100 metres away from the daughter, heard her screaming and rushed to find her. When she found her, she saw her lying on the ground covered in blood, with her tongue cut off. She immediately covered the victim’s body and called her son, who reached the spot on his bike. They then took the victim to the nearest police station – Chandpa police station.
An hour later, the victim, her mother and brother reached the police station. The family alleges that the police significantly delayed registering an FIR and also told them to take the victim away. The victim’s brother says that Sandeep, one of the accused, attempted to kill her. The victim at this time was slipping in and out of consciousness. An FIR was filed against accused Sandeep under Section 354 of the Indian Penal Code.
The videos that were later circulated on social media showed the victim telling the police, “Gala daba diya (They strangled me).” Asked why, she said, “Zabardasti na karne de rahi taiku (Because I did not let them force me).”
The police then took the victim to a district hospital, where the doctor referred her to the AMU JNMC Hospital saying that the local clinic does not have the facilities to treat her, as she was in a serious condition.
The victim was then officially admitted to the JNMC Hospital in Aligarh, where she was admitted for a period of 14 days. Over the next week, the victim’s condition worsened.
The victim’s statement was recorded at the JNMC Hospital, in which she mentioned molestation and named two attackers including the main accused Sandeep. On basis of this statement, Sections 307 and 354 of the IPC were added and Sandeep was arrested.
The victim’s dying declaration before the district magistrate was recorded at JNMC Hospital. In this statement, she named the other three accused – Luvkush, Ravi and Ramu – accusing them of sexual assault. On the basis of this, the police filed cases against all the accused under charges of gang-rape and attempt to murder. The three were arrested within the next few days. This became the last available statement of the victim.
The medico-legal examination done at the hospital on this day mentions “use of force”. However, opinion regarding penetrative intercourse was reserved pending the availability of the Forensic Science Laboratory (FSL) report.
The victim’s condition got critical and she was referred to AIIMS. However, she was taken instead to Safdarjung Hospital in Delhi for treatment.
The victim succumbed to her injuries on the morning of September 29. Following her death, a protest erupted inside Safdarjung Hospital. Members of the Congress party as well as the Bhim Army headed by Chandrashekhar Azad were part of this dharna, demanding strict punishment of the accused. The family had also alleged that the police were trying to secretly dispose of the victim’s body. After a day-long protest, the victim’s body as well as the father and brother were taken back to Boolgarhi village.
At around 2:30 am, the police forcefully cremated the victim without the consent of her family, the mother of the victim alleged. After the cremation was done, the case started gaining nationwide momentum, with people demanding justice for the victim and questioning the UP government and administration’s intentions.
The UP government set up a Special Investigation Team (SIT) to look into the case. Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke to Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath asking him to ensure speedier justice. Initially given seven days to probe the Hathras case, a 10-day extension was given for the final report. The last date to submit the report was October 17, but the report has still not been submitted.
Adityanath spoke to the family members of the victim via video conferencing. The state government announced ex-gratia compensation of Rs 25 lakh, a house and a government job to kin of the deceased.
Amid growing tensions, Section 144 of the CrPC was imposed in the Boolgarhi village ahead of Congress leaders Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra’s scheduled visit to meet the victim’s family. All entry points of the village were sealed and the media was barred from entering. According to the victim’s brother, the family was under the strict surveillance of the UP police who had surrounded the house in huge numbers.
Rahul and Priyanka’s convoy was stopped at the UP-Delhi border, citing the imposition of Section 144 in Hathras. They then decided to cover a distance of over 100 km on foot, but were repeatedly stopped by the UP police on the Yamuna Expressway. They were later detained and escorted back to Delhi.
UP additional director general of police (law and order) Prashant Kumar said the FSL report reveal that the 19-year-old victim, was not raped. ANI, quoted him as saying, “No semen has been found in the forensic report. The FSL report has already clarified that there was no rape on the victim.” Experts disputed this claim saying the samples were taken 11 days after the assault.
The post-mortem report came out the same day and revealed more details. The woman suffered a fracture in her neck as a result of repeated strangulation. The report mentioned injury to her cervical spine (neck) produced by “indirect blunt trauma, and its resultant sequelae”. It further said that the ligature mark over the neck is consistent with attempted strangulation but did not contribute to death in the case.
The Allahabad high court took suo moto cognisance of the matter, expressing its displeasure over the matter and the victim’s forcible cremation.
Rahul and Priyanka were finally allowed to visit the victim’s family. Permission had been given to the two Congress leaders along with three other representatives of the party. Relaxations were made to allow the media to enter the village.
Over the next few days, a Samajwadi Party delegation, Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) vice-president Jayant Chaudhary and Bhim Army chief Chandrashekar Azaad visited the victim’s house, assuring them of all help. Congress leaders Rahul and Priyanka also met with the victim’s family and continued their attack on the UP government. Yogi Adityanath recommended a CBI probe into the case the same day, but it was officially only taken over by the CBI a week later.
Hundreds of people, including family members of the four accused, gathered outside former Hathras MLA and BJP leader Rajveer Pahalwan’s house on Sunday to demand ‘justice for the four accused’.
The Uttar Pradesh government on Tuesday filed an affidavit at the Supreme Court on the Hathras case, justifying the state police’s decision to cremate the body of the victim at 2:30 am “to avoid large-scale violence” the next morning. The UP government also said that the decision was taken on the basis of intelligence inputs.
One of the accused, Sandeep, wrote a letter to the UP police, in which he claimed that he was “friends” with the victim. He also claimed that he and the three other accused are being framed in the case and sought “justice” for the four men. He also accused the woman’s mother and brother of torturing her, indicating at the possibility of it being a case of “honour killing”. “Apart from meeting, we used to speak on the phone once in a while,” the letter claimed.
The letter emerged amid police claims that there is evidence that the victim’s family knew one of the accused. Call data records between the accused and victim’s brother reportedly showed around 104 calls made between October last year and March this year.
The Central government has issued a notification for the CBI to take over the probe, after which the CBI registered an FIR and took over the investigation. IPC sections related to gang-grape and murder, as well as the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, were invoked. The CBI Ghaziabad unit, with a special team to investigate the crime, was assigned the case.
The victim’s father, mother and three brothers were brought to the Allahabad high court amid tight security who then appeared before its Lucknow bench, which fixed November 2 as the next date of hearing. The family members were heard by the bench of Justices Pankaj Mithal and Rajan Roy on Monday. The UP additional chief secretary, DGP and the ADG (Law and Order) also deposed before the court, along with the Hathras DM and SP.
The DM in court reiterated the earlier claim that the decision to cremate the victim’s body at night was taken considering the law and order situation.
A CBI team reached the house of the victim and collected samples from the spot where the victim was cremated by the Uttar Pradesh police without the consent or involvement of her family members.
The victim’s brother had reportedly demanded that the case and the family both be transferred to Delhi, citing protection and employment opportunities.
A fact-finding team including Medha Patkar from the NAPM, activist and writer Mani Mala and member of the Socialist Party (India) Sandeep Pandey released a report which said that the crime was a “cumulation of casteist, anti-woman tradition”. The report also noted that as a minority in the village, Dalits had been “experiencing a number of repressive acts and atmosphere over decades”.
The Allahabad high court was allowed to monitor all aspects of the case including the CBI investigations by the Supreme Court. The apex court, while hearing petitions seeking a court-monitored probe into the case, also said that a request to transfer the trial out of UP “has been left open” until the investigation is completed.