The Uttar Pradesh Police's seemingly bungled handling of the Hathras gangrape and murder has come under the scanner with many, both in the press and on social media, questioning why the body of the Dalit teen was hastily burned in the middle of the night and expressing skepticism on the police's claim that there is 'no evidence of rape'.
The victim, a 19-year-old Dalit girl was gang-raped in Uttar Pradesh's Hathras allegedly by four men on 14 September. After her condition deteriorated, she was referred to Delhi's Safdarjung hospital where she breathed her last on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, a Lucknow bench of the Allahabad High Court on Thursday issued summons to the Uttar Pradesh additional chief secretary, director general of police and additional director general of police, telling them to be present before the court on 12 October to explain the case.
The court has also told media houses such as Indian Express, The Times of India, AajTak, NDTV, to produce the material and content on the basis of which they have reported on the cremation of the Dalit rape victim.
No rape claim finds no takers
Uttar Pradesh ADG Prashant Kumar, speaking to PTI on Thursday, said, "The report of the Forensic Science Lab clearly says samples did not have sperm. It makes clear that there was no rape or gang rape."
But experts told NDTV that the samples were collected days after the incident " which occurred on 14 September " and sperm would thus not be present in the report.
A scientific officer at a government forensic department, who did not wish to be named, told NDTV, "The post-mortem report mentions old healed injuries to her private parts, though how old is not mentioned. The injuries would have healed during her medical treatment. The report does not commit to rape as it's not the cause of death and a serological examination report is awaited."
Earlier on Thursday, Hathras superintendent of police Vikrant Vir was quoted as saying, "The medical report from the Aligarh Muslim University Medical College mentions that there were injuries but it does not confirm forced sexual intercourse. They are waiting for a report of the forensics. As of now, doctors say that they're not confirming rape."
It should be noted though that as per a 2013 verdict of the Supreme Court and recent amendments, Section 375, which defines rape, was widened to include acts other than forcible peno-vaginal penetration or sexual intercourse.
The Uttar Pradesh Police's claims in the Hathras case have also been met with skepticism after it was reported that the police, in the wee hours of Thursday morning forcibly took the teen's body and cremated it.
In case you are wondering why the brutalised Hathras teen was cremated post midnight using petrol by the UP police. New claim she was never gang raped https://t.co/gvIK3QsY26
" Swati Chaturvedi (@bainjal) October 1, 2020
The family reportedly begged that the police allow them to take her body and perform last rites the next morning but could not even get a last glimpse of the teen, as they were locked in their home.
A piece in The Telegraph pointed out that such a tactic is usually employed by the police in cases of the militants' funerals and is often employed to avoid flare-ups.
An uncle of the 19-year-old victim told the newspaper he was standing outside the girl's home when "some policemen grabbed me and forcibly took me to the cremation ground and shot a video to show I had attended the funeral".
He said that after placing the body on the pyre "the policemen poured a liquid from a plastic container on the pyre and burnt the body". He added that no holy water ritual or mukhagni (a fire ritual) was done.
"People were protesting at various places along the highway in Hathras. The police clandestinely cremated her, instead of handing the body over, to prevent the funeral triggering an outpouring of emotion and anti-government protests," the victim's elder brother told The Telegraph.
Local police officers, however, told PTI the cremation was carried out "as per the wishes of the family".
ADG Kumar's threat of legal action against those he accused of 'twisting the matter to stir caste-based tension' did no favours for the Uttar Pradesh's Police's credibility in the eyes of many.
"According to the definition of rape as amended by the Criminal Law Amendment Act, 2013, penetration of the vagina by the penis in the conventional sense of intercourse is not at all necessary to constitute the offence of rape. Now, insertion, to any extent, of any object or a part of the body into the vaginal urethra, or anus of a woman also constitutes rape.
"'To any extent' is the critical part. It means that the slightest contact with the concerned part would also make for rape," he said.
Asthana further told The Wire that old tears in a woman's hymen, as the report suggests, are of "little consequence" when it comes to the offense.
"It is well known that the hymen can be ruptured due to various types of physical activities. It therefore does not matter whether the victim was a virgin or not. Once again, the law on this is absolutely clear," Asthana further told The Wire.
Allahabad HC takes suo moto notice
Taking suo moto cognisance, the Allahabad bench, while summoning top officials, also directed the Hathras district magistrate and senior superintendent of police to appear before it.
The bench told all officials to come prepared with all the relevant material and documents to apprise the court of their versions of the incident.
The court, which appeared especially upset over the police cremating the teen's body overnight allegedly forcibly in Hathras without her parent's consent, also directed officials to apprise the bench of the latest status of the probe into the alleged gang-rape and murder case.
The bench also asked the late teen's parent to come to the court to apprise it of their version of the incident and ordered the Hathras district administration to arrange for their travel to the court.
Meanwhile, the family of the victim on Thursday accused the district administration of pressuring them against "repeatedly changing" their statement and demanded a CBI probe. The father of the Dalit teen, claimed that he was "pressured" into going to a police station where the district magistrate and police officials made three members of his family sign some document.
'Want CBI probe,' says rape victim's father
"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," the victim's father said in a purported video shared by Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra on Twitter.
The development came as a video surfaced purportedly showing Hathras district magistrate Praveen Kumar Laxkar meeting the family at their home, where he allegedly asked the woman's father to "reconsider" if he wants to stick with the statement or change it.
"You should not destroy your credibility. About the media, I must tell you, half of them have left today¦ the other half would leave by tomorrow morning... two or four more days maybe. Only we are standing by your side, alright. Now, it is up to you whether you want to change your statement repeatedly or not...," Laxkar tells the victim's father according to the video on social media.
A woman member of the family claimed they were being pressured by the district magistrate and feared "these people now won't let us live here", according to another purported video.
Firstpost has not independently verified the authenticity of the videos.
"They have made random videos of mother's statements. Soon after the incident, the situation was such that we were speaking anything that came to our minds... But now they (administration) won't let us live here anymore. This DM is a trickster, he is pressuring us. Says we are not reliable, we are changing our statement. They asked our father and told him that we lose credibility if we change the statement, we (administrators) will be sent to some other place," the sobbing woman alleged, as per PTI.
Dalit woman gang-raped in Balrampur, say reports
On Thursday, another gangrape came to light with reports saying that a 22-year-old Dalit woman died two days ago after being raped allegedly by two men in UP's Balrampur district.
Balrampur superintendent of police Dev Ranjan Verma, quoting the victim's family, said the woman, who worked with a private firm, returned home in a serious condition on Tuesday.
The girl looked dazed and had an intravascular cannula, medically known as Vigo and used for administering injection or other fluids in the body, inserted in her hands.
She was rushed to a nearby hospital, but died on the way, said the SP. When the matter was reported to the police from the hospital, the parents alleged that their daughter was gang-raped, SP Verma said.
Caste discrimination, a daily reality
As per another article in The Wire, in the Uttar Pradesh village where the 14 September gangrape occurred caste discrimination is an everyday reality.
As per the piece, of the several hundred households in the village, only four families are Dalit. There are around fifteen Brahmin households and around a hundred Thakur households.
A couple, who live in the house adjacent to victims told The Wire, that the [Thakurs] in the village don't shy away from violence. The couple narrated how nearly 30 Thakurs assembled to beat their child after he accidentally touched a packet of jaggery being carried by a child from the Thakur caste.
The child was unharmed because his grandmother offered double the amount to buy fresh jaggery.
FIR against Rahul, Opposition slams UP government
The police in Uttar Pradesh's Gautam Buddh Nagar on Thursday said it has lodged an FIR against Congress leaders Rahul Gandhi, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra and around 200 other party workers under The Epidemic Diseases Act for not maintaining social distancing and not wearing face masks.
The FIR was lodged under Indian Penal Code sections 188 (disobedience to order duly promulgated by public servant), 269 (unlawfully or negligently spreading infection of any disease dangerous to life), 270 (malignant act likely to spread infection of disease dangerous to life) and under section 3 of the Epidemic Diseases Act, the police said.
Rahul and Priyanka were arrested after they were stopped from marching towards Hathras, with Rahul falling down in in a melee after police tried to stop him and his supporters from proceeding on the Yamuna Expressway. The Gandhis were then taken away in a police jeep, detained and later released.
According to reports, Rahul questioned the senior UP cops as to under which law was he being stopped by them, as he wanted to walk alone towards Hathras to meet the rape victim's family.
"Can you tell me under which law can you stop me from marching towards Hathras?" he asked.
"I want to go alone to Hathras and on what basis can you arrest me?" he asked, to which the cops told him that he had violated Section 188 of the IPC of disobeying the orders promulgated by the government during the pandemic.
Congress leader Randeep Surjrewala put out a video along with a tweet showing Rahul allegedly being roughed up as he marched forward on the Yamuna Expressway. Pictures of him falling down in the melee were also shared by the Congress.
"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," Surjewala said in a tweet in Hindi.
Congress leader P Chidambaram also alleged that none of the country's laws seemed to apply to the police. "UP police is a law into itself. None of the laws of the country seem to apply to it," he alleged. "What is wrong if the leaders of a political party protest against a gruesome crime and wish to visit the victim's family," he asked on Twitter.
Chidambaram said the two leaders were not violent, they did not carry arms and they were lodging a peaceful protest.
"Why should the police stop them from protesting peacefully? Why should the UP police arrest the two leaders and take them away?"
"I hope the court where the leaders will be produced will release them," he said.
The Congress' Odisha unit on Thursday lashed out at the police in Adityanath-ruled Uttar Pradesh for its "undemocratic and shameful".
West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee, terming the Hathras gangrape as "barbaric and shameful", said the "forceful cremation" of the victim has exposed those who use lofty promise and slogans to seek votes.
"Have no words to condemn the barbaric and shameful incident at Hathras involving a young Dalit girl. My deepest condolences to the family. More shameful is the forceful cremation without the family's presence or consent, exposing those who use slogans and lofty promises for votes," Banerjee said on Twitter.
Raising questions on the law and order situation in Uttar Pradesh, BSP chief Mayawati demanded that the leadership should be changed or President's Rule be imposed in the state.
"In the wake of the law and order situation in the state and the flood of crimes against women, the Central Government should replace Yogi Adityanath with some 'kaabil' (capable) person and if this is not possible, President's Rule should be imposed in the state," Mayawati said.
"I want to say to Adityanath that you are born from the womb of a woman. You should consider the sisters and daughters of others as your sister and daughter. If you are unable to protect them, you should resign," she asserted.
With inputs from PTI