Lucknow: The Uttar Pradesh Police registered an FIR against Bhim Army chief Chandrashekhar Azad and 400 unnamed people under various sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and The Epidemic Diseases Act, on Monday. They were charged for violating Section 144 of the CrPC in Hathras while visiting the kin of the woman who died after being allegedly gang-raped and brutally assaulted by four upper-caste men last week.
The FIR comes on the heels of a gathering in Boolgarhi village in Uttar Pradesh's Hathras district on Sunday. The Bhim Army chief and his supporters had affected the law and order situation as they tried to enter the village, the police said.
“Police informed Chandrashekhar Azad and his supporters that due to the Epidemic Diseases Act and implementation of Section 144 in the area, a large gathering was likely to facilitate the spread of coronavirus. The police told them that the movement of ambulances and emergency service would be impacted with the gathering. But the supporters sat on the roads despite orders near Sasni Police Station (sic),” the FIR read.
A case was registered under Sections 147 (rioting), 341 (punishment for wrongful restraint), 188 (violation of public order), 269 (actions spreading disease) of the IPC and under relevant sections of The Epidemic Diseases Act.
On October 4, Azad visited Hathras and met the victim’s family. He demanded a time-bound inquiry by a retired judge of the Supreme Court into the incident and also sought security for the family of the victim.
While addressing the media after meeting with the family members, Azad said they should be provided Y-plus security cover as they were not feeling secure. He said that there was an atmosphere of fear and insecurity in the victim's village and that the woman’s kin wanted to leave.
Hundreds of people, including the family of one of the accused, took out a rally in support of four accused and also organised a mahapanchayat in favour of the accused. It was conducted close to the victim’s house in the premises of ex-Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MLA Rajveer Pahalwan on Sunday. However, no FIR has been filed against the gathering of approximately 50 people as yet.
Notably, the rally in the support of accused happened when Section 144 was imposed in Hathras to stop gatherings in the village. However, this did not prevent supporters of the four accused – upper-caste men from the Thakur community – from rallying and even organising a mahapanchayat in their support. The protest itself was attended by right-wing groups such as the Bajrang Dal, Karni Sena and the RSS. Caste-based organisations like the Rashtriya Savarna Sangathan and the Kshatriya Mahasabha also took part in the rally and the mahapanchayat.
With the victim’s family members asking for a judicial probe in the case, UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath recommended a CBI probe into the Hathras case on Saturday. The rally in support of the accused also welcomed the possibility of a CBI probe.
Rajveer Pahalwan, who presided over the gathering, claimed that the four accused were not guilty. He added that a CBI inquiry will “reveal the truth about the incident”. Members of the upper-caste community also raised concerns about the woman’s family refusal to take a narco-analysis.
According to reports, between 700 and 800 people attended the meeting while close to 500 people had assembled at the BJP leader’s house. Pahalwan claimed that he was involved in a “personal capacity”. His son, Manveer Singh, denied that the gathering only consisted of upper-castes, saying people from different sections of society were present.
The BJP leader told reporters that the people want a CBI inquiry so that “the truth comes out”, adding that TV channels were spreading fake news and that the “rape did not occur...All the accusations are incorrect and the CBI will conduct a proper investigation,” Pahalwan said.
Pahalwan’s son accused the Congress and the Samajwadi Party of trying to influence the victim’s family. He added that legal options were being explored to defend the accused. He claimed that the accused being arrested from their homes was “proof” of their innocence, saying that they would have run away had they been guilty.
“This government belongs to the Thakur community and they will go to any extent to suppress the voices of Dalits or Muslims. Where Muslims were accused, they were booked under National Security Act (NSA). The same should apply to Hathras too but they are being encouraged by organising a rally. It is clear that this government is anti-Dalit and anti-Muslim,” said Kanwal Bharti, a Dalit scholar and activist.
“How did other political parties gather there when Section 144 was imposed? For the same, an FIR was registered against Chandrashekhar Azad. People will lose trust in the judicial process and the government as well, whose job is to protect them,” he added.
A 19-year-old Dalit woman was allegedly raped in Hathras by four men on September 14. After her condition deteriorated, she was shifted to Delhi's Safdarjung hospital where she breathed her last on Tuesday.
She was cremated in the early hours of Wednesday, with her family alleging that the cremation was done in haste by the UP police, without their consent, in the dead of the night.