The body of the 19-year-old Dalit woman who died in a Delhi hospital a fortnight after she was gang-raped in Uttar Pradesh's Hathras, was cremated near her home 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.
However, local police officers told PTI that the cremation was carried out “as per the wishes of the family”.
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 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.
“The cremation was done (at) around 2:30 am to 3:00 am,” the father of the deceased woman told PTI on Wednesday morning. In the moments preceding the cremation, the woman’s brother told PTI: “(The) Police has 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 visuals from the site that surfaced on social media, some of the policemen were in anti-riot gear, 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.”
When contacted, Hathras Superintendent of Police Vikrant Vir told PTI in a text message: “All procedures as per wish of family (sic).”
Bhim Army Chief Detained
Bhim Army chief Chandrashekhar Azad and the outfit’s Delhi unit head, Himanshu Balmiki, have been detained by the Uttar Pradesh police while on their way to Hathras accompanying the family of the 19-year-old Dalit gang-rape victim, their associates alleged on Wednesday.
There was no immediate confirmation from the police in the matter.
According to functionaries of the Azad Samaj Party, which was launched by the Bhim Army chief in March this year, Azad and Balmiki went missing after 10 pm on Tuesday. They were on their way to Hathras accompanying the family of the gang-rape victim who died in a Delhi hospital on Tuesday.
The Azad Samaj Party and the pro-Dalit outfit Bhim Army affiliates, among others, had joined protests outside the Safdarjung hospital in Delhi on Tuesday to demand justice for the gang-rape victim and her family.
“There is no clue about the location of Azad and Balmiki after they reached Jewar toll plaza to get on the lane to Tappal, Aligarh,” Azad Samaj Party core committee member Ravindra Bhati said.
He alleged that Azad and Balmiki were detained during the intervening night of Tuesday and Wednesday but that the police were not making it public.