New Delhi: The alleged brutal gang-rape and murder of a 19-year-old dalit girl in Uttar Pradesh’s Hathras is snowballing into a major political issue, with protests continuing in many states, and Opposition parties demanding the resignation of Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath.
Meanwhile, the UP Police, which cremated the body in the dead of the night without allowing the girl’s parents anywhere near, has denied gang-rape altogether.
Citing a forensic science laboratory (FSL) report, ADG (Law and Order) Prashant Kumar claimed the cause of the girl’s death was an injury on the neck and trauma resulting due to it.
"The report of the FSL has also come. It says clearly that samples did not have sperm. It makes clear that there was no rape or gang rape," Kumar said.
On Thursday, a Congress convoy, including party leaders, such as Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi, was stopped in Greater Noida from proceeding to Hathras. Both the leaders then proceeded on foot to meet the family of the dalit gang-rape victim in Hathras, which is 150 km away.
Talking to reporters en route, Priyanka Gandhi said Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath should take responsibility for the alleged gang-rape and strict action should be taken against the perpetrators of the crime. The victim died in a Delhi hospital on Tuesday.
"He (Adityanath) would have to do something for women's safety. We will continue to fight till the time he does something. The women in the entire state will fight as they realise that they are not safe and secure. Everyday such incidents are happening. Eleven rape cases are registered in Uttar Pradesh every day," she said.
Attacking the UP government for "not allowing the family to cremate the woman with honour", she said, "You claim to be the protectors of the Hindu religion, we are Hindus, but where has it been written that you cannot allow a father to lit the pyre of his daughter and not allow the family to cremate the victim?
Ahead of the visit by Congress leaders, the Hathras district magistrate imposed prohibitory orders under section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) and ordered sealing of the district borders to maintain peace.
Scores of Congress workers also staged a protest at the Delhi-Noida border, raising slogans against the BJP-led governments in the Centre and in Uttar Pradesh.
In Haryana, protests were organised by various social outfits and dalit organisations on Thursday at several places including Kaithal, Yamunanagar, Fatehabad and Rohtak.
In Chandigarh, a candle march was held on Wednesday evening condemning the horrific incident.
In Delhi, protests by civil society members, women and dalit rights organisations etc. have called for protests on October 2 and 3.
Replace Adityanath or Impose Prez Rule: Mayawati
In Lucknow, raising questions over the law and order situation in Uttar Pradesh, Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati demanded that either the state’s chief minister be replaced or the president's rule imposed.
Referring to deaths of two women in Hathras and Balrampur regions, she said the incidents are reminiscent of the 2012 Nirbhaya gang rape and murder in Delhi.
"In the wake of the law and order situation in the state and a flood of crimes against women, the Union government should replace Yogi Adityanath with some 'kaabil' (capable) person and if this is not possible, the President's rule should be imposed in the state," Mayawati said.
Reacting to the BSP leader’s statement, state government spokesperson and Cabinet Minister Siddharth Nath Singh said, "Mayawati ji you become the leader of Scheduled Castes but you forgot that during your tenure a thousand dalits were killed; and today you are giving us a lecture."
In Mumbai, Nationalist Congress party leaders criticised the UP government after the Congress convoy was stopped by police.
Maharashtra Home Minister and NCP leader Anil Deshmukh told reporters that there should be no objection to a leader of a political party going there (Hathras) to condole with the family.
"I feel quite surprised that the Uttar Pradesh government did not allow a senior leader of the party to meet the kin. This is a very serious issue," he said.
In Jalpaiguri, Trinamool Congress leader and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee hit out at the BJP government in Uttar Pradesh. She said as Goddess Sita had to go through 'Agni Pariksha', the dalit woman who died after being allegedly gang-raped and brutalised in Hathras was put on a funeral pyre in the dead of the night.
She questioned the role of the UP Police in handling the case. "What kind of an administration is this where the body of the woman was cremated in the dead of the night while no proceedings were initiated (against the accused)," she added.