In a terrifying incident that took place in a village in Hathras (Uttar Pradesh), a 19-year-old Dalit girl was brutally assaulted and allegedly gang-raped by four upper-caste Thakur men on 14 September 2020. The girl later succumbed to injuries in Delhi’s Safdarjang Hospital on 29 September 2020. The incident sent shock waves in the country; leading to nationwide protests by various social and political organizations.
In what transpired in the morning of 14 September 2020 in the Boolagarhi village of Hathras in Uttar Pradesh, the victim had gone to collect animal fodder from a field with her mother when a group of men abducted her from behind and dragged her to a field where she was allegedly gang-raped. Reportedly, she was dragged and strangulated by a dupatta, which probably caused the spinal injuries. While narrating the incident to a news channel, the victim’s mother said,
We were working in the fields when they dragged her away. I was cutting grass and she had moved away to collect it. When I turned to look, I couldn’t find her. I shouted and hunted for her and spotted one of her slippers. There were drag marks near it. I followed them to find my daughter lying naked with blood coming out of her mouth; she wasn’t being able to talk, her tongue had been slashed.”
Injuries to the Victim
Soon after the news erupted about the alleged gang-rape of the victim, some reports claimed that the victim received multiple fractures and she was paralyzed; caused by the spinal injuries. She also reportedly had a gash in her tongue. According to a police officer, the accused had tried to strangulate her to death as she resisted them, and in the process, she had ended up biting her tongue and suffering a severe cut on it. According to the victim’s mother, the culprits broke her (victim’s) spinal cord, gouged out her eyes, and cut off her tongue. The victim’s mother said,
When I found my daughter, I saw a lot of bleeding from her body. I covered it with my scarf. We were very confused and in a state of shock. Our daughter was unconscious. Our daughter took the name of one of the accused in her brothers’ ears and fainted. We thought that the village boy had beaten him.”
Treatment & Death
Initially, the victim was admitted to Aligarh Muslim University’s Jawaharlal Nehru Medical College and Hospital where she underwent treatment for two weeks. When her condition became critical, she was shifted to Delhi’s Safdarjung Hospital on 28 September 2020 where she succumbed to injuries on Tuesday morning (6:00 am) of 29 September 2020. According to Fakhrul Hoda, head of the Neurosurgery Department of Aligarh Medical College, by the time the victim was brought to the hospital, she had already suffered permanent damage to the spinal cord. He said,
The medical facilities that were required for her were available at the hospital. She was in the ICU and was put on a ventilator when her oxygen saturation dropped.”
When asked whether the victim’s tongue had been sliced, Dr. Hoda said,
prima facie, it appeared that the tongue had come between her teeth when she was strangulated. It happens in such cases.”
The autopsy report of the victim, performed by the doctors at Delhi’s Safdarjung Hospital, confirmed the injury to the cervical spine (neck). Signed by three doctors, the report mentioned a fracture in C6 cervical vertebra of the victim. The report also revealed that an attempt to strangulate her had also been made; however, it didn’t contribute to death. The report was concluded as –
Alleged post strangulation with cervical spine injury with sepsis and cardiopulmonary arrest.”
The death summary of the victim noted,
No vomiting and seizure.”
The Arrest of the Accused & Fast Track Trial
According to Hathras Police, they had started investigating the case when the victim was still undergoing treatment at Aligarh’s Jawaharlal Nehru Medical College and Hospital, and on 19 September 2020, they arrested the first accused, Sandeep. According to the police, when the victim was admitted to Aligarh’s Jawaharlal Nehru Medical College and Hospital, she was not in the condition to give her statement. Later, on 22 September 2020, Brahm Singh, Circle Officer, Sadabad, recorded the statement of the teenage victim. In her statement, she named the other three accused and alleged that she was gang-raped. Based on the details provided by the victim, the police went on to hunt for them, and on 23 September 2020, the second accused, Luvkush, was arrested. The third accused, Ravi, was arrested on 25 September, and the fourth accused, Ramu, was arrested on 26 September. Later, all four accused were sent to jail. The accused were charged for an attempt to killing under the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989.
Later, the Uttar Pradesh Government constituted the special investigation team (SIT) to probe the brutal ‘gang-rape’ The SIT was headed by senior IPS officer Bhagwan Swaroop, secretary of home department. Two other members of SIT are deputy IG Chandra Prakash and Poonam, the commandant of 15th battalion PAC Agra. The SIT was supposed to submit its report within a week. Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath took to Twitter to announce the constitution of the SIT to probe the case.
हाथरस में बालिका के साथ घटित दुर्भाग्यपूर्ण घटना के दोषी कतई नहीं बचेंगे।
प्रकरण की जांच हेतु विशेष जांच दल का गठन किया गया है। यह दल आगामी सात दिवस में अपनी रिपोर्ट देगा।
त्वरित न्याय सुनिश्चित करने हेतु इस प्रकरण का मुकदमा फास्ट ट्रैक कोर्ट में चलेगा।
— Yogi Adityanath (@myogiadityanath) September 30, 2020
Police Claimed No Rape
According to a senior Uttar Pradesh police officer, ADG (Law and Order) Prashant Kumar, who cited a forensic report, the victim was not raped. Citing a Forensic Science Laboratory (FSL) report, he said,
The report of the FSL has also come. It says clearly that samples did not have sperm. It makes clear that there was not rape or gang rape.”
ADG (Law and Order) Prashant Kumar further said,
Even the woman in her statement to police did not mention about rape but talked about marpeet (beating) only.”
IG Piyush Mordiya also claimed that there was no sign of rape with the victim.
Procedural Delays by The Police and Administration
According to the victim’s family members, the Uttar Pradesh Police and administration didn’t cooperate with them when they sought help from them rather they made procedural delays. According to Satyendra (the victim’s brother),
The police had not even called an ambulance for Didi. Sister was lying on the ground. The policemen had said that take them from here. It is lying on the pretext. We had to wait 8-10 days for the FIR. After registering the report, the police caught one accused and released the other. Further action followed the sit-in demonstration and the accused were arrested 10-12 days after the incident.”
Reacting to the delay in police action, Prakash Singh, Assistant Superintendent of Police, Hathras, said the victim’s brother, Satyendra, reached the police station at around 10.30 am on 14 September 2020, an hour after the incident, to lodge a complaint against one Sandeep, who he alleged tried to strangulate her sister when she had gone to the field with her mother to collect animal fodder. The police further said that based on the written complaint of the victim’s brother, they registered an FIR on the same day under IPS sections 307 and ST/SC Act. According to Hathras Police, at that time, Satyendra (the girl’s brother), had just named one accused- Sandeep behind the alleged crime.
थाना चंदपा क्षेत्रान्तर्गत दिनांक 14.09.2020 को घटित घटना के संबंध में जिलाधिकारी हाथरस व पुलिस अधीक्षक हाथरस द्वारा दी गई बाइट @dgpup @Uppolice @adgzoneagra @vikrant_ips @ANINewsUP @News18UP @bstvlive @ANINewsUP pic.twitter.com/7Xmj7c6X3p
— HATHRAS POLICE (@hathraspolice) September 29, 2020
According to sources in Aligarh’s Jawaharlal Nehru Medical College and Hospital,
Procedural delays possibly because of pressure from the administration.”
A doctor who was part of the process said,
It could hamper the forensic investigation.”
Denying any laxity on the part of the administration, Praveen Kumar Lakshkar, District Magistrate of Hathras, claimed that there was no law and order situation in the village. He said,
We are not taking any chances and police presence has been increased in the village.”
Later, Vikrant Vir, Senior Superintendent of Police of Hathras, transferred the Station House Officer (SHO) of the Chandpa police station to Police Lines for not taking action in the case promptly.
Valmiki vs Thakur – An Old Animosity
According to local sources, the incident traces its roots to an old animosity between the Valmiki and Thakur families. Chandra Shekhar Azad, the leader of the Azad Samaj Party, after meeting with the girl in Aligarh’s hospital, alleged that the administration had delayed in referring her to Delhi. He also said that the facilities in Aligarh were inadequate. Harpal Singh, head of the Agra division of the Azad Samaj Party, said,
From delay in the arrest to dilly-dallying in shifting her to Delhi, the administration’s role is questionable.”
On Wednesday, 30 September 2020, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath interacted with the victim’s father and brother via videoconferencing, and he assured them of stringent action against all the accused.
Later, the Chief Minister’s office announced that the victim’s family will be given Rs. 25 lakh as ex-gratia compensation and a house in Hathras under the State Urban Development Agency (SUDA) scheme. A junior assistant job was also offered to a family member. Earlier, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had spoken to Yogi Adityanath on the incident and asked for ‘strictest’ punishment against the accused.
आदरणीय प्रधानमंत्री श्री @narendramodi जी ने हाथरस की घटना पर वार्ता की है और कहा है कि दोषियों के विरुद्ध कठोरतम कार्रवाई की जाए।
— Yogi Adityanath (@myogiadityanath) September 30, 2020
Forcible Cremation & Protests
In the wee hours of Wednesday, 30 September 2020, the Hathras gang-rape victim was cremated by the Uttar Pradesh police and administration. Reportedly, it was a forcible cremation amid the huge protest by the family members of the victim and many other villagers. Later, the family alleged that the victim’s body was forcefully cremated by the police against their wishes.
While clarifying its stance, the police said that it had already been over 24 hours since the victim’s demise, and the body had started decomposing. The news that the victim was forcefully cremated sent ripple effects in the country; triggering a massive outrage, which drew parallels with 2012’s Nirbhaya incident in New Delhi.
Amidst the huge outrage following the demise of the victim and her forceful cremation by the Uttar Pradesh police, various political parties stepped out on streets in protest. While lashing out at the UP government’s inhuman approach in the case, Congress President Sonia Gandhi took to Twitter to condemn the action by the UP police.
हाथरस में मासूम लड़की के साथ जो हैवानियत हुई, वो हमारे समाज पर कलंक है।
हाथरस की निर्भया की मृत्यु नहीं हुई है, उसे मारा गया है- एक निष्ठुर सरकार द्वारा, उसके प्रशासन द्वारा, उत्तरप्रदेश सरकार की उपेक्षा द्वारा।
कांग्रेस अध्यक्षा श्रीमती सोनिया गांधी का वक्तव्य:- pic.twitter.com/1ER1DpCWYP
— Congress (@INCIndia) September 30, 2020
Priyanka Gandhi also took to Twitter to condemn the forceful cremation of the Hathras gang-rape victim.
मैं यूपी के मुख्यमंत्री जी से कुछ सवाल पूछना चाहती हूँ-
परिजनों से जबरदस्ती छीन कर पीड़िता के शव को जलवा देने का आदेश किसने दिया?
पिछले 14 दिन से कहां सोए हुए थे आप? क्यों हरकत में नहीं आए?
और कब तक चलेगा ये सब? कैसे मुख्यमंत्री हैं आप? pic.twitter.com/Q2qPcDXDTT
— Priyanka Gandhi Vadra (@priyankagandhi) September 30, 2020
Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal termed the incident “very painful” and said,
The Hathras victim was sexually assaulted by some brutes and then by the whole system yesterday. It is extremely painful.”
Many other leaders of various other political parties also condemned the action taken by the UP government, including Samajwadi Party’s Akhilesh Yadav, and Bahujan Samaj Party’s Mayawati. On 1 October 2020, Congress leaders Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra were detained by the Uttar Pradesh police on way to Hathras to meet the gang-rape victim’s family.