Noida/Lucknow, Oct 1 (PTI) The Allahabad High Court on Thursday sent out summons to top Uttar Pradesh officials over the alleged gang-rape and death of a Dalit woman while the Congress staged a dramatic protest, leading to the detention of Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra.
The two leaders were detained by UP police in Greater Noida, just outside Delhi, when they insisted on marching to Hathras to meet the family of the 19-year-old woman, whose death followed by a hurried cremation triggered nationwide outrage.
The two leaders and about 150 party workers were held briefly and booked for violating prohibitory orders. They were let off after they furnished personal bonds, Uttar Pradesh Police said.
The BJP dismissed the protest as a photo op for the Gandhis.
The melee on the Yamuna Expressway, during which the former Congress president fell on the ground, was the biggest among scattered protests during the day over the death of the woman, who the UP police controversially suggested was not a victim of rape.
The Lucknow bench of the Allahabad High Court also took note, summoning the Uttar Pradesh additional chief secretary, director general of police and additional director general of police on October 12 in connection with the case.
Justices Rajan Roy and Jaspreet Singh have also called the victim’s parents to have their say in court that day.
A senior police officer said in Lucknow that the forensic examination on the woman who died at Delhi’s Safdarjung Hospital on Tuesday did not indicate rape.
'The report of the FSL has also come. It says clearly that samples did not contain sperm. It makes clear that there was no rape or gang-rape,' Additional Director General (Law and Order) Prashant Kumar said on Thursday.
But legal experts debunked the theory, telling PTI that the presence of sperm on the victim’s body cannot be an essential ingredient to prove the crime.
The rape charge was added to the FIR after the victim told police that she was sexually assaulted, officials had said earlier.
The woman succumbed to the severe injuries she suffered when she was allegedly assaulted by four upper-caste men – later arrested -- in the fields at her village in Hathras district on September 14.
She was cremated in Hathras in the dead of the night with family members saying they were not allowed to bring the body home one last time. But police claimed they had the family’s consent for the cremation.
The hurried funeral triggered outrage with opposition parties and other groups attacking the BJP government in UP over the state of law and order.
The condemnation continued Thursday, when another case of a Dalit woman’s death after alleged rape surfaced.
The woman died in Balrampur on her way to hospital. Her family said she was abducted by some men who gave her an injection and then raped her.
Referring to the two cases, Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati demanded that UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath should be replaced or President’s rule imposed in the state.
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and Maharashtra CM Uddhav Thackeray also targeted the Uttar Pradesh government.
In Haryana, Dalit organisations and other outfits held protests in Kaithal, Yamunanagar, Fatehabad and Rohtak.
Congress workers blocked an arterial road in Kolkata and held a candlelight protest in Hyderabad.
But the focus was on the Congress protests in Noida and Greater Noida.
Party workers first gathered on the road on the Delhi-Noida border, dispersing only after the convoy of cars carrying Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra passed them.
The cars were stopped a few minutes later on the Yamuna Expressway by UP police. The Gandhis then insisted they will proceed on foot to Hathras, about 150 km away.
Police tried to stop them again, citing prohibitory orders which prevent assembly of people. At one point, a video clip showed, Gandhi taking a fall amid the melee. He was quickly helped on his feet by his security personnel.
Another clip showed him challenging a police offer. 'Can you tell me under which law you can stop me from marching towards Hathras?' he said.
'I want to go alone to Hathras and on what basis can you arrest me?' he said, arguing that this would not lead to any violation of section 144 of the CrPC.
The leaders were later taken away in police cars, reportedly to the guesthouse at the International Buddh Circuit, before being released.
As the events unfolded, Congress alleged that Gandhi was roughed up and other protesters faced lathis.
'Lala Lajpat Rai had said that every blow of a stick on my body would prove to be the last nail in the coffin of the British Raj.
'The sticks on Rahul ji and Priyanka ji's convoy will also prove to be the last nail in the coffin of the Yogi government,' party spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said in a tweet in Hindi.
UP minister Siddharth Nath Singh was dismissive of the 'photo op', questioning even the fall suffered by Gandhi.
The BJP has also accused the Congress leaders of ignoring atrocities in the states ruled by that party. PTI TEAM ASH ASH