Hathras, a name embroidered in political controversy, moral grey ground, and a home to one of the most violent acts of hate to commit. The eve of September 14th, 2020 turned an innocent girl into a victim of a gruesome hate crime. The Hathras gang-rape case has shaken India to its very core. However, what goes to show the ignorance of our media, the case caught coverage only once the victim had succumbed to injuries, a fortnight after the incident had occurred.
Sequence of events
In the wee hours of 14th of September, a 19 year old Dalit girl stepped out into the field collect fodder for the family cattle when a group of men attacked her, grabbed her neck-scarf, dragged her through the field, and gangraped her. The same 4, upper-caste men belonging to the Thakur community, post the rape, strangled her.
Around 10:30 a.m. the victim’s brother (Satyendra) reached the police station in an attempt to lodge a complaint against one man i.e. Sandeep who allegedly strangled the girl. Based on this complaint the police registered an FIR under IPC Section 307 and ST/SC act against Sandeep.
The victim was admitted to the Aligarh Muslim University’s Jawaharlal Nehru Medical College and Hospital (JNMCH) Due to the strangulation, and rape the victim had suffered multiplle injuries. The most explicit of these fractures was the C6 vertebrae, which caused the girl to lose consciousness. Other injuries included a bitten off tongue, several fractures. However, no reports or checks were made on the victim’s genitals. The Hathras adminitration reasons that no complaints were lodged of any sexual assault and thus, the victim’s genitals weren’t checked for any signs of forceful penetration or harassment.
In its final report on the Hathras victim, the Department of Forensic Medicine of the Aligarh Muslim University’s Jawaharlal Nehru Medical College and Hospital (JNMCH) has said there were no signs suggestive of vaginal/ anal intercourse. It, however, said there was evidence of physical assault (injuries over the neck and the back).
According to various sources, allegedly, the forensic reports for rape were collected 8 days post the incident, contrary to government guidelines which state the collection of forensic samples to be collected with 72 hours (the maximum time duration for which a sperm can survive).
“On September22, in a revised statement the victim for the first time stated that “…when my mother and I had gone to fetch fodder, then Sandeep, Ramu, Luvkush, and Ravi of my village have committed rape upon me. Sandeep then strangulated me with Dupatta…” The woman constable questioned the victim as to why she had not disclosed these facts earlier, to which the victim said she was not in her senses. In their statements the parents of the victim too stated that their daughter was gang raped by (sic) few men in village. On the basis of these statements, according to the affidavit the police immediately added another section of gang-rape to the FIR on September 22, and deleted Section 354 of IPC. Urgent steps were taken to arrest the three accused. Accused Luvkush was arrested on September 23, accused Ravi was arrested on September 25 and accused Ramu was arrested on September, 26th .”
After weeks of admission into the JNMCH the victim was finally transferred to Safdarjung Hospital, where she succumbed to her injuries within a day and passed away on September 29th, 2020. The body of the victim was allegendly cremated by the district police against the wishes of the family at 0300 hours on the 1st of October.
UP Administration: Affidavit
According to the state, in an affidavit (filed on Monday), the decision of the cremation was made to avoid law and order problems. The same affidavit lays the onus of the mal-handling of the case to “vicious propaganda” unleashed on social media and by certain sections of print and electronic media and some political parties to deliberately mislead the public and to create caste and communal disharmony in the state.
“The state government is committed to conduct a free and fair investigation to reach the truth. The state govt seeks indulgence of this court to direct the CBI to investigate into the incident and into criminal conspiracy to spread caste conflict and instigate violence and incidents of propaganda by certain sections of media and political interests,” the UP government said in the affidavit.
The UP administration has also registered for a CBI inquiry of the case, which would ensure no vested interests will be able to create fake, false narrative with oblique motives. It also alleges that the family of the young woman who died after her assault and alleged gang rape by four men was offered ₹ 50 lakh to lie about the state government.
In a three judge bench, headed by the CJI S.A. Bobde, has asked the UP government to file an affidavit regarding the programme in place for protection of the witnesses. It has also asked the state (represented by Solicitor General, Tushar Mehta) to make sure that the family has its own lawyer. From among the 19 FIR’s filed against the case, the one by social activist Satyama Dubey, and lawyer Kirti Singh with her 100 lawyers, were denied the current transfer of the case from the Allahabad High Court to the Supreme Court with the rationale to allow the High Court due process.
Special Investigation Team
A special investigation team headed by the UP Home Secretary Bhagwan Swaroop, Deputy Inspector General of Police Chandraprakash and IPS officer Poonam has been appointed to probe this case. It reached the village on the 6th of October, early morning and is scheduled to reveal its report on the 7th of October 2020.
They are scheduled to visit the site of the crime, as well as the cremation, as well as conduct a forensics report as the team, accompanied by a forensic expert, was seen walking through the field where the incident took place.