Rahul, Priyanka allowed to go to Hathras after high drama, SIT completes its preliminary probe
Hathras/New Delhi: Congress leaders Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra were headed to Hathras on Saturday to meet the family of the Dalit sexual assault victim following a massive show of party strength and some scuffles too at the Delhi-Uttar Pradesh border.
While high drama unfolded in the national capital and the case continued to find wide resonance, a Hathras administration official said the Special Investigation Team had completed its preliminary probe into the death and alleged gangrape of the 19-year-old woman.
Ending a two-day standoff, the administration removed barricades outside her village to allow the media to meet her family. But scores of police personnel in riot gear lined up at the Delhi-Noida Direct flyway to prevent the Congress convoy from moving to Hathras, about 180 km away.
Eventually, as swarms of Congress workers and others jostled with each other amid loud honking, slogans and Congress flags fluttering in the air, the Gautam Buddh Nagar Police finally allowed five people, including Rahul Gandhi, to go to Hathras.
Congress workers – some who described what happened as “brutal repression” — claimed police used batons to disperse the crowd.
Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi were detained on Thursday when they tried to go to Hathras.
“CrPC Section 144 has been imposed in Noida, Greater Noida as well as in Hathras and some other districts in Uttar Pradesh due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Considering social distancing and other related norms, permission has been granted for five people, including Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra,” Noida Police Commissioner Alok Singh told PTI.
All roads it seemed led to Hathras with Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath sending senior officials, including Additional Chief Secretary (home) Awanish Awasthi and Director General of Police H C Awasthy, to the village to meet the woman’s family.
Several journalists, including those from TV channels, also made their way to the village where various family members spoke of their grief and trauma since September 14 when she was brutally assaulted and allegedly gangraped by four upper caste men
Awanish Awasthi told reporters that “any group with no more than five people” is allowed to meet the victim’s family, marking a departure from the last few days when media and politicians, including from the Congress and Trinamool Congress, were turned away from the village.
He said orders for the suspension of police personnel, including the superintendent of police, were issued on Friday within two hours of receiving the first report from the SIT.
“It is an extremely sad incident. We met everyone in the family. We spoke to them and assured them that the strictest action would be taken against all those found guilty,” Awasthi told reporters.
“Whatever points and the complaints they have raised, the SIT will note them, and we will make all efforts to ensure that each of them is addressed,” Awasthi said, without elaborating.
The officer said that they would submit a report to the chief minister.
The Dalit teen died of her grievous injuries in the early hours of Tuesday in a Delhi hospital, a fortnight after she was attacked, and cremated in the dead of night near her home on Wednesday. Her family alleged they were forced by local police to hurriedly conduct her last rites, triggering outrage nationwide and protests in several places.
On Thursday, the Hathras administration had clamped prohibitory orders and scuffles broke out as politicians, including from the Congress and the TMC, as well as the media tried to access the village. About 300 police personnel stood on guard to prevent anybody from entering.
The death of the young woman, whose brutal assault recalled for many the horrors of the Nirbhaya case, continued to snowball into a major political issue
As the Congress delegation from Delhi prepared to make its way to Hathras, its Uttar Pradesh unit president Ajay Kumar Lallu and more than 500 workers were put under house arrest, the party alleged.
In Varanasi, a group of Congress workers blocked the Union minister Smriti Irani’s cavalcade. Congress spokesperson Lalan Kumar said protesting party workers, who raised anti-government slogans and demanded justice for the woman’s family, were later arrested.
Addressing a press conference, the Women and Child Development minister accused the opposition of playing politics on the Hathras issue.
“The victim will get justice. I have spoken to the chief minister. Once the SIT submits its report, the chief minister will take action against the accused,” Irani told reporters.
Adityanath had set up three-member Special Investigation Team on Wednesday and instructed that it submit its report by October 14.
In a tweet in Hindi using the hashtag ‘Hathrashorror’, Rahul Gandhi said the behaviour of the UP government and police with the woman and her family “is unacceptable”.
Hitting out at the Adityanath dispensation, Priyanka Gandhi described the UP government as “morally corrupt” and said, “The victim did not get treatment, her complaint was not registered on time, her body was forcibly cremated, the family is in captivity, they are being suppressed — now they are being threatened that they will have to undergo a narco test.”
The party also alleged that the woman and her family had been denied justice and “severely traumatised” by the BJP government.
BSP president Mayawati demanded a CBI or a Supreme Court monitored probe into the incident and said people were not satisfied with the initial investigations in the matter.
“There is tremendous resentment in the entire country over the Hathras heinous gangrape case. The public does not seem satisfied with the initial probe report. Therefore, this matter should be investigated by the CBI or under the supervision of the honourable Supreme Court. This is the demand of the BSP,” Mayawati tweeted in Hindi.
“Also, the honourable president of the country, who also comes from UP and is a Dalit, it is a strong appeal to him to intervene in this case, keeping in mind the inhuman attitude of the government, to bring justice to the victim family,” she added.