Hathras: The 19-year-old Dalit woman, who died in a Safdarjung hospital in Delhi, a fortnight after she was gang-raped in Uttar Pradesh’s Hathras, was cremated here in the early hours of Wednesday, with her family alleging the local police forced them to conduct the last rites in the dead of the night.
“The cremation was done around 2.30am-3 am,” the father of the deceased woman told on Wednesday morning.
In the moments preceding the cremation, a brother of the woman told: “Police have forcibly taken the body, and my father along with them for cremation. When my father reached Hathras, he was immediately taken (to the crematorium) by the police.”
Another kin said the woman’s father was accompanied by 30 to 40 people, mainly relatives and others from their neighbourhood, to the crematorium near Bool Garhi village, under Chandpa police station limits, in the district of western Uttar Pradesh.
Senior police and administration officials were also present at the crematorium in the middle of the night, an official said. According to purported visuals from the site that surfaced on social media some of the policemen were in anti-riot gears donning body vests and helmets.
“We are unable to understand what they want… what kind of politics is this? They are giving random statements like the woman has not been raped! We don’t know what they want,” said the relative who was at home with the grieving family.
“They are doing all this to hush up the case,” he alleged.
Local police officers, however, said the cremation was carried out “as per the wishes of the family”, even as the incident triggered protests in Hathras with several people coming out on roads.
Leaders of opposition parties hit out at the BJP government in the state over the manner in which the cremation was conducted, with the Congress demanding Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath’s resignation.
The woman was raped in a village in Hathras by four men on September 14. After her condition deteriorated, she was referred to Delhi’s Safdarjung hospital where she breathed her last on Tuesday.
As news of her death spread, protests broke out in Delhi as well as in Hathras with all sections of society, including politicians, sports and cine stars and activists, expressing their anguish and demanding justice for her.
The family left Safdarjung hospital in Delhi on Tuesday night amid heavy police deployment. The body was taken by the Uttar Pradesh police, which reached Hathras earlier than the family members, claimed a kin of the victim.
When contacted, Hathras Superintendent of Police Vikrant Vir told PTI in a text message: “All procedures as per wish of family (sic).”
Later in the day, the Hathras Police issued a statement, refuting the reports that the body was cremated without the permission of the family.
“Hathras Police denies these reports. The truth is that family members carried out the last rites of the body as per their rituals in presence of police and administration officials,” it stated.
Around 12 pm, locals from Bool Garhi village came out on roads to protest the developments, while many demonstrated near the local Chandpa Police station and some in Hathras city.
The manner in which the last rites of the gang-rape victim was carried out led to opposition parties hitting out at the state government.
Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati, in a tweet, said, “The cremation of Hathras gang-rape victim by the Uttar Pradesh Police without handing over the body to the family or without their consent and in their absence in the dead of the night is raising doubts and resentment. The BSP strongly condemns such a wrong attitude of the police.”
It would be better if the Supreme Court takes cognizance of the serious case on its own and initiates appropriate action, otherwise from the attitude of the UP government and the police it does not seem that even after the death the gang-rape victim and her family will get justice, she said in another tweet.
Congress General Secretary Priyanka Gandhi said, “I was on the phone with the Hathras victim’s father when he was informed that his daughter had passed away. I heard him cry out in despair.”
“He had just been telling me that all he wanted was justice for his child. Last night the victim’s father was robbed of the chance to take his daughter home for the last time and perform her last rites,” she said in a series of tweets.
Tagging Adityanath in a tweet, Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi said, “RESIGN. Instead of protecting the victim and her family, your government became complicit in depriving her of every single human right, even in death. You have no moral right to continue as chief minister.”
Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav tweeted: “In the rape-murder of Hathras daughter, conducting her last rites by police in the middle of the night without the consent of the family is against the rituals. It is the most condemnable act to erase evidence. The BJP government has committed a sin and crime by doing so.”