Hathras gangrape: Police stifle protests after forcibly cremating victim
The Congress has sought chief minister Yogi Adityanath’s resignation over the Hathras incident, as have several other rivals of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).Updated: Oct 02, 2020, 03:47 IST
The Uttar Pradesh administration sealed off Hathras and the UP Police arrested Congress leaders Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra after scuffles with party workers on Thursday, as protests escalated over the alleged gang rape and murder of a woman whose family said she was forcibly cremated in the dead of the night to scuttle growing public anger.
The former Congress president and his sister, who is also the general secretary in-charge of Uttar Pradesh, were on their way to meet the family of the 19-year-old Dalit woman in Hathras, where the administration enforced restrictions against public assembly of five or more people and barred the entry of media persons.
Watch: Rahul & Priyanka Gandhi Vs UP cops over march to Hathras; duo arrested
The Congress has sought chief minister Yogi Adityanath’s resignation over the Hathras incident, as have several other rivals of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) chief Mayawati said on Thursday that Adityanath must be replaced or the Centre should put the state under President’s rule.
Meanwhile, UP cabinet minister Siddharth Nath Singh accused the Congress of “politicising the incident”.
On the Yamuna Expressway, roughly an hour’s drive from the national capital, a Congress convoy was stopped by the state police, forcing Rahul Gandhi, Priyanka Gandhi and their party colleagues to walk. A group of policemen attempted to physically stop them, resulting in scuffles with party workers. At one point, Rahul Gandhi fell to the ground as a policeman attempted to stop him from moving forward. Video footage showed a messy scuffle, with, at one stage, the policemen pushing Gandhi and later body tackling him.
“Shri Rahul Gandhi, Smt Priyanka Gandhi and senior Congress leaders have been arrested by the UP police,” the party said on its official Twitter handle in the afternoon. The party leaders, who were arrested at 3.40pm, on the Yamuna Expressway, were taken to a facility at the Buddh International Circuit close by before being driven back to the national capital, accompanied by UP Police. The two were later booked for violating provisions of the epidemic diseases act that is in place for fighting the Covid-19 pandemic.
The BJP called the Gandhis’ attempt to visit Hathras “political tourism”. Union minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said the suspects arrested for the alleged gang rape and murder would be punished. “The probe teams are carrying out the investigation, but I think there should not be political tourism...,” he said.
The woman was allegedly raped and brutalised by four dominant-caste men on September 14 when she had gone to the fields in her village to gather cattle fodder. Left partially paralysed and admitted for treatment in the Jawaharlal Nehru Medical College of Aligarh Muslim University, she was shifted to New Delhi’s Safdarjung Hospital when her condition did not improve. She died on Tuesday morning.
Police on Thursday, however, contended that there was no rape — and referred to the first charge sheet filed in the matter that did not mention rape — contradicting a statement given by the victim in the Aligarh hospital days before she died. Conflicting videos did the rounds, increasing the murkiness around the crime (a young woman’s death, at the least), and highlighting efforts to spin the narrative.
Anger has mounted since the predawn cremation of the woman on Wednesday that her family said had been forced by the Uttar Pradesh authorities. Protests took place in Hathras, where the police were deployed in strength. Elsewhere in UP and in major metropolitan cities such as Delhi and Mumbai, political party workers and ordinary citizens held demonstrations for a second consecutive day on Thursday.
Priyanka Gandhi alleged that the police used “lathis” on Congress workers and that many of them were injured. “The sticks of an egotistical government cannot stop us. I wish these lathis were used by this police while standing in defence of Hathras’s Dalit daughter,” she tweeted in Hindi.
Rahul Gandhi was seen asking the UP Police under which law he was being stopped and insisted that he would proceed alone towards Hathras to meet the rape victim’s family, given that section 144, which prohibits large gatherings, had been imposed.
“Can you tell me under which law can you stop me from marching towards Hathras? I want to go alone to Hathras and on what basis can you arrest me,” he asked, to which police officials replied that he had violated section 188 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) for disobeying orders promulgated by the government during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Love Kumar, additional commissioner of police of Gautam Budh Nagar, said section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) had been enforced in the district. “Rahul Gandhi, Priyanka Gandhi and about 50 party workers were booked under section 188 of IPC (disobedience to order duly promulgated by public servant). They were released on personal bond in the evening,” he said.
Kumar said the police used mild force to disperse the crowd and denied there was a lathi-charge.
Samajwadi Party’s Akhilesh Yadav, BSP‘s Mayawati and Trinamool Congress’s Mamata Banerjee lashed out at Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath.
Condemnation also came in from the chief ministers of Kerala and Punjab, while protests were held by cadres of SP, in addition to those by Congress workers, across multiple cities in Uttar Pradesh. In Aligarh, SP workers lodged a protest when they were stopped from moving towards Boolgarhi village in Hathras on Thursday.
Azad Samaj Party chief and Bhim Army founder Chandrashekhar Azad too demanded President’s Rule in Uttar Pradesh, saying the constitutional machinery in the state failed to curb crimes against Dalits. Azad said he has started a “dharna” at his home in Saharanpur where he is put under a “house arrest”, which was ordered by the local police on Wednesday.
The Dalit activist was accompanying the family of the 19-year-old woman, who died in a Delhi hospital on Tuesday, a fortnight after she was allegedly gang-raped in UP’s Hathras, to their home but was detained midway.