Hathras gangrape: Senior police officials suspended
The Uttar Pradesh government suspended senior police officials in Hathras district on Friday and ordered narco-analysis tests for everyone involved in the case as pressure mounted over blocking media access to the family of a 19-year-old Dalit woman, whose brutal gang rape and murder has shocked the nation.
The government, in an order on Friday evening, suspended Hathras superintendent of police Vikrant Vir, deputy superintendent of police Ram Shabd, police inspector in-charge Dinesh Kumar Verma, senior sub- inspector Jagveer Singh and head constable Mahesh Pal.
The district police came under criticism, first for an alleged delay in responding to the woman and her family’s complaint, cremating her body in the middle of the night without the family’s consent, then for throwing a cordon of police officers around the village that stopped the entry of all journalists, and now for seizing the phones of the victim’s family members -- although it is likely that instructions for many of these came from Lucknow.
The suspensions were ordered on the basis of recommendations by a three-member Special Investigation Team (SIT), which questioned the victim’s family members on Thursday. “The SIT formed in the Hathras case submitted its preliminary report to the state government today,” read the government press note.
It said that Vir was suspended for alleged negligence and lax supervision of the case. He was replaced with Shamli SP Vineet Jaiswal. “Narco and polygraph tests should be conducted on the accused, complainant and police officials,” the note added.
Former Uttar Pradesh DGP, Brijlal said: “the state government orders narco-analysis tests in criminal cases to know if the complainants and the accused are giving a correct version of in the incident concerned.”
Vikrant Vir did not respond calls despite repeated attempts.
The SIT -- comprising home secretary Bhagwan Swaroop, deputy inspector general of police Chandra Prakash and commandant of the Agra provincial armed constabulary Poonam -- was constituted on September 30.
The order came after two chaotic days when police banned the entry of “outsiders” to the village, triggering allegations that it had put the Dalit woman’s family under surveillance.
On Friday morning, a teenager who said he was a cousin of the victim, approached journalists waiting at the police barricades – set up roughly 2km from the village – and alleged that the administration locked in the family, seized their mobile phones and even hit the victim’s father.
“They have seized our mobile phones and won’t allow us to meet the media. All we want is speak to journalists about the pressure we are under,” he said.
The police denied the charges, and pointed out that Section 144 of the Indian Penal Code – which prohibits the assembly of four or more people – was clamped in the area. The police said the SIT probe was the reason for the restrictions. “The three-member SIT is conducting the probe in the village. Till then, entry of the media is to remain restricted. We are also maintaining law and order. Hence, no political delegations and individuals are allowed inside the village,” said additional superintendent of police (ASP) Prakash Kumar in the afternoon.
The 19-year-old woman, who belongs to the Valmiki caste, was brutally attacked and gang-raped on September 14, and rushed to a hospital in Aligarh. Eight days later, on September 22, she recorded her statement, where she said she was raped and named the four accused. Her mother’s statement echoed the claims.
As her condition deteriorated, she was moved to Delhi’s Safdarjung hospital on September 28 and died in the early hours of September 29, sparking nationwide protests.
Later that evening, the police drove the family and the victim’s body back to the Hathras village but proceeded to cremate the body without the consent of the parents. At 2.30am on September 30, the policemen cremated her body even as the family alleged they were restricted from even getting a final glimpse of their daughter.
Since then, protests against the crime have swept the nation and prompted several Opposition leaders to try and visit the village – but have all been thwarted by the state police. Citing forensic reports, the police have denied that the woman was raped but experts have pointed to lapses in procedure during the medical examination.