Mass protests over ‘caste-based’ crime in India

Mass protests over ‘caste-based’ crime in India
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Police officers disperse demonstrators during a protest after the death of a rape victim, in Noida, India, October 3, 2020. (Reuters)
Mass protests over ‘caste-based’ crime in India
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Shiv Sena party youth wing activists shout slogans against Uttar Pradesh state Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath during a protest condemning the gang rape and killing of a dalit woman, in Mumbai, India, Saturday, Oct. 3, 2020. (AP)
Mass protests over ‘caste-based’ crime in India
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Activists of All India Democratic Women's Association lights candles during a protest condemning the alleged gang rape and killing of a Dalit woman, in Hyderabad, India, Saturday, Oct. 3, 2020. (AP)
Mass protests over ‘caste-based’ crime in India
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Rahul Gandhi, leader of India's main opposition Congress party, and his party supporters scuffle with police during a protest after the death of a rape victim, in Noida, India, October 3, 2020. (Reuters)
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Updated 03 October 2020

Mass protests over ‘caste-based’ crime in India

Mass protests over ‘caste-based’ crime in India
  • Police reports said that the brutal assault left her with a broken spine and her tongue cut out
  • “We also want punishment for those who cremated her body without our permission,” the victim’s sister-in-law said

NEW DELHI: India’s premier investigative agency Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) will probe the alleged rape and murder of a 19-year-old girl in the Hathras district of Uttar Pradesh, the state’s chief minister, Yogi Adityanath, announced on Saturday evening.
“Chief Minister @myogiadityanath Ji has ordered the CBI to conduct a probe into the entire Hathras case,” Adityanath’s office said in a Twitter post.
The family of the alleged gang-rape victim earlier demanded an investigation into her death.
The girl, from the country’s most marginalized caste, died in hospital two weeks after she was allegedly attacked by four upper-caste men from her village.
Police reports said that the brutal assault left her with a broken spine and her tongue cut out.
“We don’t trust the state government,” the victim’s sister-in-law told Arab News from Boolgarhi village, in the Hathras district of western Uttar Pradesh state.
“We want an investigation by the Supreme Court into the whole incident, and we also want punishment for those who cremated her body without our permission.”
It is forbidden under Indian law to disclose the identity of rape victims.
Five senior police officers have been suspended over their handling of the investigation into the case, which has caused outrage across India and sparked protests.
Police have been criticized over their alleged attempts to destroy evidence by cremating the young woman’s body in the early hours of Wednesday, against her family’s wishes. Her ashes were still on the ground on Saturday, with the family refusing to collect them.
“Why was the body not shown to us before the cremation? Why have the police denied us our rights to cremate the body with full honor?” her relative added. “How do we know that the body cremated on Wednesday was the girl’s body? I don’t trust the administration.”
Officials have sealed off Boolgarhi village since Wednesday, with no media allowed to enter the area. There are reports that police have also confiscated the mobile phones of some of the victim’s relatives.
“It’s true that the village has been turned into a fortress with the presence of a large number of police forces,” local journalist Dinesh Kushwaha told Arab News. “It’s also true that all the phones of the family members are with the local administration.” 
He said that journalists were, however, being allowed to enter the village from Saturday morning.
The hasty cremation and lack of sympathy toward the victim’s family have angered people.
On Saturday, the main opposition Congress Party continued with its protests.
The administration in Uttar Pradesh had senior party leaders Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi arrested on their way to the victim’s village. But police eventually allowed them to visit the family.
“I don’t accept the treatment meted out to the sweet little girl and her family,” Rahul tweeted. “This is not acceptable to anyone in India.”
The government accused Congress of playing politics.
“People are aware of Congress tactics … I cannot stop a leader in a democratic nation, but people understand that their visit to Hathras is for politics and not for justice to the victim,” Smriti Irani, minister for women and child welfare, told the media.
But women’s rights activists said this was “an unprecedented situation never witnessed in independent India when a ruling party openly protects the culprits.”
“This is the brutal attack on the Dalit women by the feudal lobby of Uttar Pradesh under the leadership of the Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath,” Sucheta De, from the All India Democratic Women Association, told Arab News.
De said the local police’s declaration that the victim was not raped showed they were trying to “change the whole narrative” of the crime.
“All the democratic forces in the country should demand the resignation of Adityanath for his handling of the situation and his brazen defense of the culprits at the cost of the poor Dalit woman,” De added.
Annie Raja, general secretary of the National Federation of Indian Women, wondered what kind of society India had become.
“A government which claims to promote Hindu ways of life does everything which is anti-religion and anti-humanity,” she told Arab News.
“Can you imagine the government brutalizes the family and the girl the second time when the poor soul was denied dignity in death? Why do you need to cremate the body in haste without handing it over to the family? Why do you need to shut the whole family in the village? I feel the government is trying to hide something. It seems complicit in the whole affair.”
On Saturday, 92 former bureaucrats wrote to Adityanath, blaming the government for “flouting human sentiments at will” and “rapidly disposing of evidence” in cases of offenses against the body.
The state government was accused of committing a “crime against humanity” with its conduct after the teenger’s death by one expert. 
“It is a clear case of an attempt to destroy the evidence,” Uttar Pradesh-based political analyst Ram Dutt Tripathi told Arab News.
“Why is the family being pressured to be silent? People are very resentful. The government is violating people’s fundamental rights and denying the family its fundamental rights.”