THE CITIZEN BUREAU | 21 OCTOBER, 2020
A nine-member fact finding team probing the Hathras gangrape and murder case alleged that the state attempted to “suppress the issue” and raised several questions in their report regarding the “highly suspicious” behaviour of the police and the lack of a timely medical examination to ascertain sexual assault.
The team—which included Medha Patkar of the National Alliance of People’s Movement (NAPM), activist and writer Mani Mala, Supreme Court advocate Ehtesham Hashmi and Sandeep Pandey of the Socialist Party (India)—visited Bulgarhi village, Hathras on October 9 and met the family of the 19-year-old Dalit girl who was gangraped allegedly by four upper caste men on September 14 and succumbed to her injuries later that month.
Other members of the team included activist Faisal Khan, Joe Athialy and Amit Kumar of the Delhi Solidarity Group, Hansraj of the Narmada Bachao Andolan and a student Anand Athialy. The team noted that out of over 600 families that reside in Bulgarhi village, only 15 are Dalit families who have been living there for generations.
The report released on October 20 highlighted how the victim’s father had been called in for questioning by the District Magistrate in Hathras and given an “unclear message” the day after the incident that “he and the family should convey to all about their being satisfied with the enquiry and the treatment both.” “This itself conveys the state was preparing to suppress the truth and close the case forever,” stated the report.
It further added that when the victim was brought to Aligarh Jawaharlal Nehru Medical College Hospital, the family felt that the doctors and employees there were under “enormous pressure”. Medha Patkar too, stated the same in a press conference on October 20: “The investigation in Hathras, we found that doctors and employees of every hospital were somewhere or the other under pressure by the state government and that is why there are so many conflicting reports. Even the FIR that was earlier filed did not mention gangrape, this we have found out.”
While the decision to transfer the patient to AIIMS, New Delhi was being taken, some doctors were allegedly of the opinion that the patient should not be moved until she regained consciousness. The family too, agreed with the same, keeping in mind the severe nervous injury affecting the victim’s spine.
Referring to the UP government’s affidavit to the Supreme Court, in which it mentioned that the family had objected to shifting the patient to a spe ialised hospital, the fact-finding report stated, “The false allegation that the family didn’t permit the administration to take her to AIIMS does therefore stand exposed and countered.”
The victim was taken to Safdarjung Hospital instead of AIIMS. “We were told, when asked, that AIIMS and Safdarjung are the same. We couldn’t argue as we are not educated nor knowledgeable about Delhi and the medical services,” the report quoted a family member.
“It is however, shocking that the doctors, who must have checked her whole body, didn’t examine anything related to sexual assault, nor did they enquire with her family till she herself brought out the truth. This passage, rather wastage, of time could be deliberate since late examination couldn’t ever prove rape. The intention obviously could be to miss or lose evidence forever,” stated the report.
Refuting allegations that the case was one of honour killing by the victim’s family due to supposed previous relations between the victim and one of the culprits named Sandeep, the report cited recent news that the victim was being harassed by the accused men and others, for the past six months. “She was once pulled by him near the field but had escaped.”
Regarding the controversial cremation of the victim’s body by the police in the dead of night—that sparked widespread protests—the report stated that the family was informed by the police at the hospital and their consent for the post mortem process was sought but “nothing else was shared”. Family members later found out that the body had been taken away for cremation without their permission.
They wanted possession of the body for their relatives who were yet to arrive. However, this request was turned down by the police, who “cordoned the area of cremation and absolutely denied them any right or humane response to their demand for the body to perform final rites.”
At the press conference, advocate Ehtesham Hashmi stated that the hurried cremation was a fundamental rights violation, adding: “One of the most important points in criminal law is that there should be no delay in registering an FIR. However, in this case, the FIR was registered very late which gave people the time to destroy evidence and the cremation too, was a means of destroying evidence.”
The report further cited “unjustifiable actions” of “criminalising dissent and strangulating opposition in ‘democratic’ India”.
It added: “There is no doubt that the police of Uttar Pradesh behaved in a highly suspicious as well as vicious manner, beyond anyone’s expectation and they have, thereby created all doubts about their intentions… Such an awfully inhuman and criminal act on the part of the state with no repentance, nor any response to our serious questions or legal challenge, has proved that the state itself wanted to suppress the issue with casteist, manuvadi and inhuman anti-woman elements exposed through this and other incidences in Unnao, Balarampur, or Azamgarh cases, before and after.”
Hashmi further called for investigating the administrative and police officers involved in the case, stating, “How many ever officers are involved in this unfair investigation, cases should be registered against them as well… If it is proved in court that they have not conducted the investigation fairly or have destroyed evidence, then like the other culprits, they too should go to jail.”
The fact-finding report, urging for the matter to be taken up before the Court through various petitions, concluded that details of the case have brought out the “violent to vulgar politics in Uttar Pradesh which is protecting and promoting all such sections of population such as the upper caste oppressive forces, that are blatantly violating legal, Constitutional and human rights.”
Activist Mani Mala, referring to protests carried out by upper caste individuals in Hathras in support of the accused, stated that it was frightening how a portion of society had stood up for the culprits.
Patkar also said, “Today the most critical situation is due to the state’s power holders who are taking a position in favour of gender injustice, whether it is related to the transgender community or women at large, whether it is their sources of livelihood or their freedom to agitate.”
She further added, “While many are asking for Yogi Adityanath’s resignation, we are asking for women’s safety, for every criminal law to be upheld, for constitutional justice for the victim and a judicial enquiry.”