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Charged-up opposition parties hit the streets as India simmered with anger over the murder of a 19-year-old girl in Hathras, Uttar Pradesh, allegedly after she was gang-raped and her tongue cut off.
Protests were held in many places, including Kolkata, New Delhi and Bokaro, Jharkhand, in what was becoming like an echo of the protests that erupted in India after the December 2012 gang-rape and murder of a young girl in Delhi who was named “Nirbhaya” by The Times of India because India’s anti-rape laws prohibit naming rape victims.
The outrage only grew as the Uttar Pradesh state machinery seemed to be leaving no stone unturned to ensure that neither the media nor politicians could meet the victim’s family members, who have told reporters on record that they are under immense pressure from the administration.
More videos of the crackdown surfaced on social media, including one in which the district magistrate was seen telling the girl’s father: “Half of the media people have left today, the other half will leave by tomorrow. Only we will stand with you. It is up to you whether you want to change your statement or not.”
The victim’s father was quoted by The Telegraph as saying that the UP police special investigation team “kept asking us the same question — why we didn’t mention in our September 14 complaint that my daughter was not only thrashed and had her tongue chopped off but was also gang-raped… We kept replying that we had done so in our application and don’t know why the police changed it.”
Initially, the police had slapped only an attempt to murder charge.
Congress party leaders Rahul and Priyanka Gandhi were Thursday forcefully stopped and detained by Uttar Pradesh police because the sibling leaders were heading to Hathras.
Friday, the Trinamool Congress said a delegation of its members of Parliament had been stopped by Uttar Pradesh police.
The Uttar Pradesh government has imposed Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code — that outlaws assembly of people in an area — in Hathras.
In Lucknbow, the capital of Uttar Pradesh, protesting Samajwadi Party members were roughed up by cops.
The Uttar Pradesh police came in for criticism all around for insisting that the girl had not been raped, even though she before dying said it on video.
The Congress party on Friday asked Uttar Pradesh additional director general of police (ADGP) Prashant Kumar, who had said the girl was not raped because the forensic report did not find semen, to learn the law.
Former Indian home minister P Chidambaram said: “The ADGP of UP would be well-advised to go back to a law school and update himself on the amendment made in 2013 to Section 375 of the Indian Penal Code (rape).”
The amendment was made after the December 2012 gang-rape.
“He should also read the 1994 Supreme Court judgment in ‘State of UP vs Babul Nath’ on what was rape even before the amendment. Absence of traces of semen is of no relevance at all.
“The UP Police seems to be a law unto itself. The ADGP has donned the role of a court and is articulating absurd propositions of law that are contrary to the law declared by the Supreme Court,” added Chidambaram, a Supreme Court lawyer.
The high-ranking police officer had said in a statement: “The forensic report clearly stated that no semen was found (on the body). We think some people took advantage of the situation, tried to disturb communal harmony, and create a caste conflict. We are examining this and will arrest those who try to vitiate the atmosphere.”
Many on social media accused the cops of destruction of evidence by burning the girl’s body in the dead of night despite objections from the family.
The Allahabad High Court has taken suo motu (on its own) cognizance and summoned top police officers and state administration officials.
Congress leader Priyanka tweeted: “A strong and encouraging order from the Lucknow bench of Allahabad HC. The entire nation is demanding justice for the Hathras rape victim. The HC order shines a ray of hope amidst the dark, inhuman and unjust treatment meted out to her family by the UP government.”
With inputs from IANS