Protests seeking justice for a 19-year-old Dalit woman who was allegedly gang-raped in Uttar Pradesh’s Hathras and later died in a Delhi hospital shook the country for a second day on Friday even as demands rose for the resignation of UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath.
Opposition parties as well as student and civil society groups held protests across India including Delhi, West Bengal, Maharashtra, and Uttar Pradesh. In some places, especially in Delhi, protesters have been detained and cases have been filed against demonstrators.
Huge Protest in Delhi, Police Registers Case
Delhi saw a massive protest at Jantar Mantar where hundreds gather seeking justice for the Hathras gang-rape victim and questioning the manner in which the woman’s body was burned. The body of the victim was cremated around 3 am on Wednesday by the police allegedly without the permission or presence of her family members.
Hundreds of civil society members, students, women’s groups, political leaders and NGOs reached the flooded the protest site since afternoon. As section 144 was imposed in the India Gate area, where several groups had decided to gather at 5 pm for protest, participants moved to Jantar Mantar. Along with punishment for the rape accused, the protesters demanded the resignation of the UP chief minister. "The protest will continue till the UP CM resigns," said Bhim Army chief Chandra Shekhar Azad.
Youth Congress members, dressed as Mahatma Gandhi, held a demonstration at Jantar Mantar against Hathras incident. Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi attended a prayer meeting for the victim at Delhi’s Maharashi Valmiki temple where she said every woman should raise her voice against what happened to the Hathras victim.
Now Delhi police have registered a case against the Jantar Mantar protesters under sections 188 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and provisions of the Epidemic Act and the Disaster Management Act, the police told PTI. On Thursday, the Delhi Police had said that gathering of up to 100 people was permissible at Jantar Mantar only with prior permission of the competent authority.
Delhi Chief Minister Kejriwal, senior Left leaders Prakash Karat, Sitaram Yechury, Brinda Karat and D Raja, CPI leader Kanhaiya Kumar, Bhim Army chief Chandra Shekhar Aazad, actor Swara Bhasker and AAP legislators Saurabh Bhardwaj and Atishi, were among those who attended the protest.
A case has also been registered against several members of the Akhil Bhartiya Kisan Congress for flouting coronavirus guidelines and violating Section 144 of CrPC as they protested against the government over Farm Bill, Hathras rape and other issues near Vigyan Bhawan in Delhi, according to news agencies.
No Entry to Hathras, Protests at Other Parts of UP
On Friday morning, a delegation of Trinamool Congress (TMC) MPs, including Derek O' Brien, Dr Kakoli Ghosh Dastidar, and Pratima Mondal, was stopped by the UP Police from entering Hathras. In a video shared widely on social media, O' Brien was seen being shoved by a Joint Magistrate; the TMC alleged that MP Pratima Mondal was lathi-charged by female cops and handled by male cops.
While the media was allowed to enter Hathras on Saturday, politicians are still barred from going to Hathras. A day before the ordeal of the TMC MPs, Congress leaders Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi were detained by the UP Police while they were on their way to the village. The Gandhis along with around 200 party workers were booked on Thursday by UP's Gautam Buddh Nagar police under different sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and the Epidemic Diseases Act.
However, these did not deter people from protesting in the state even as Hathras itself remained under curfew-like restrictions.
Samajwadi Party (SP) workers were lathi-charged by the police in Hazratganj area of Lucknow while they were taking out a protest rally against the Hathras gangrape and farm laws. The SP also held a silent protest on Friday near the Gandhi statue in Mathura.
The Left parties staged dharnas at the Gandhi statue in different districts against the Hathras incident, PTI reported. Left leaders protesting against rape case, including CPI(M) Central Committee member Hiralal Yadav, were arrested in Lucknow.
CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury said on Twitter, “The way UP govt is assaulting senior Opposition leaders, including women leaders, journalists makes it clear it is happening with Centre’s consent. Basic democratic rights & lives of people are endangered by this govt. They cannot escape accountability. BJP shames our democracy.”
Senior Congress leaders, including UP Congress president Ajay Kumar Lallu, attended a prayer meeting at the Valmiki temple in the Hussainabad, Lucknow, according to the party.
AAP Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Singh’s wife was taken into custody in Allahabad along with 30 party workers for protesting.
In Aligarh, AMU students held a protest march against rising crime against women in the state.
West Bengal Marches On
Non-BJP parties in West Bengal, including the ruling the TMC, took out protest rallies in different parts of the state and demanded punishment for the culprits and resignation of UP CM Adityanath for failing to curb crimes against women.
The CPI(M) held protests in Kolkata, with its youth and students' wing DYFI and SFI taking out rallies.
The women's wing of the Trinamool Congress held a candle march from Esplanade to Gandhi statue in central Kolkata, PTI reported. In Malda and Murshidabad, two of the few Congress strongholds, the party took out rallies.
Sena Protests in Mumbai; Cops Detain Other Protesters
The ruling Shiv Sena on Friday organised a protest at Mumbai’s Churchgate against the Hathras incident. The Mumbai Congress also organised a candlelight protest in the city.
However, contrary to what people expected in the non-BJP ruled state, the Mumbai police were not very lenient towards certain protesters. The police served a legal notice to anti-caste activist Suvarna Salve to prevent her from participating in any protests in the city. Issued by Marine Drive police station, the notice prohibited Salve from attending a “peaceful protest” organised by a citizen’s collective ‘Hum Bharat ke Log’ (We the People of India), The Wire reported. Protesters were also detained from the Marine Drive area.
Students of the Indian Institute of Technology-Bombay (IIT-B) held a protest outside their campus in Powai while small citizen-led protests were spotted in Byculla, Chembur and other areas of the city.
A human chain from Gandhi statue to Ambedkar statue was formed near Pune Station by Hum Bharat Ke Log protesters who asked for punishment to Hathras culprits.
The Congress also held protests in Nagpur, Maharashtra and across Haryana against both (the) Hathras raoe (rape) and farm bills. In Goa, the party protested against the rape incident and UP police’s action against Rahula (Rahul) and Priyanka Gandhi.