A day after the death of a 19-year-old Dalit woman who was gang-raped allegedly by four upper-caste men in Hathras, Uttar Pradesh government set up a Special Investigation Team (SIT) to probe the horrific incident which shook the conscience of the nation.
Amid rising political pressure over the family's allegations that police forcibly cremated the body of the victim in dead of the night, Prime Minister Narendra Modi dialled UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, prompting him to order the trial of the case in a fast-track court. The SIT will submit its report within seven days, the CM said.
"The culprits of Hathras incident against the girl will not be let go. An SIT has been formed to investigate the matter and it will submit a report within seven days. To ensure early justice, the case will be run in a fast track court," Adityanath tweeted.
The woman succumbed to her injuries at Safdarjung hospital in Delhi Tuesday morning, two weeks after she was gang-raped by four upper-caste men while helping her mother who went to cut grass in the fields. She had suffered multiple fractures, paralysis and a gash in her tongue in the horrific assault that drew parallels to the 2012 Nirbhaya gang-rape.
UP Police hit a new low: Family denies giving consent for cremation
To add insult to the injury, cops of UP Police allegedly forced the family to take the body directly to a cremation ground when it reached from the hospital. A disturbing visual captured overnight show the family arguing with cops, female relatives throwing themselves on the hood of the ambulance carrying the body and a mother weeping helplessly as cops insist on taking her daughter straight to cremation. TV footage shows the relatives of the victim were locked inside their house when the cremation was performed.
When the victim's brother was asked if the family had given consent for the cremation, he said, "No, they did it on their own. We were scared. Police forced us to take the body to the cremation ground. We'd said we'll do it in the morning but they didn't listen to us."
The allegations, however, were refuted by Hathras district magistrate who said: "The funeral was not conducted without family's consent". "Her father and brother gave their consent to conduct a funeral at night. Family members were also present at the funeral," the officer told media persons.
Nationwide protests erupt, opposition lashes at UP CM Yogi
On Tuesday, the family members of the woman sat on a protest outside Delhi's Safdarjung hospital after she died, demanding that the rapists be hanged to death. Hundreds of activists and politicians including from Congress and Bhim Army joined in, demanding justice for the victim. The protesters including the family were removed by Delhi Police, which said: "The family didn't sit on dharna and the issue was high-jacked by some people".
Attacking the BJP-led state government, Congress General Secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra demanded the resignation of Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, whose elevation to power, many say, has emboldened the upper castes, resulting in violence against Dalits.
"Instead of protecting the victim and her family, your government became complicit in depriving her of every single human right," the Congress leader wrote on Twitter.
The victim was initially admitted to a hospital in Hathras 15 days ago with her tongue cut off and spinal cord severely injured. She was later shifted to a hospital in Aligarh for treatment, before moving to Safdarjung hospital in the national capital.
Four accused have been booked for gangrape and attempt to murder, apart from charges under the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, and have been arrested. They were arrested based on a statement of the victim on September 23, when she briefly regained consciousness.