Trigger warning: This article talks about rape and assault.
Sadness and grief over the death of the 19-year-old Dalit woman from Uttar Pradesh’s Hathras turned into outrage early on Wednesday after reports said that the state’s police forcibly cremated the body.
Four men, belonging to the dominant caste, allegedly raped the woman and severely damaged her spine and neck. The woman fought for her life for two weeks and died in New Delhi’s Safdarjung Hospital on Tuesday.
Amid massive outrage over the incident and the way the body was cremated, her brother said the family had not given consent for the cremation and were scared.
“No, they did it on their own. We’re scared. Police forced us to take the body to cremation ground. We’d said we’ll do it in morning,” the brother told ANI.
He also said there was pressure from the local administration and that they needed security.
Videos being shared on social media from earlier on Wednesday show police forming a human chain to keep out the media and the woman’s family from the cremation ground.
A video tweeted by NDTV shows the woman’s family in front of the ambulance, begging the police to let them take her body home.
In another video by NDTV, while the father of the woman begs in front of the police, officers can be seen raising their voice and shutting down other people who try to speak for the family.
In the following video, the police can be seen blocking protesters, the media and the woman’s family as her body was cremated.
The police has, meanwhile, not only denied that the cremation was done forcefully, it has also claimed that there was no proof of rape yet.
Hindustan Times reported Superintendent of Police (SP) Vikrant Veer as saying that there was no “urgency” by police in the cremation, and that procedure was done “as usual”.
According to the report, Veer also said that everything was calm in the village, but a huge police force was deployed there.
Veer also claimed that rape had not been confirmed by doctors. India Today quoted him as saying, “No signs of sexual assault was confirmed by doctors in either Hathras or Aligarh. The matter will be probed by doctors through forensic help. No signs of abrasion were found on the victim’s private parts.”
Veer also denied other grievous injuries that were reported.
“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,” a relative who was at home with the grieving family told PTI. “They are doing all this to hush up the case.”
PTI also the woman’s brother as saying, “Police have 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.”
However, Veer told PTI on a text message, “All procedures as per wish of family”.
Uttar Pradesh Chief minister Yogi Adityanath on Wednesday directed for an SIT to be set up to probe the case and submit the report in seven days. Adityanath also directed the trial to be done in a fast-track court.
The UP government has faced severe criticism over the incident. Congress general secretary and UP in-charge Priyanka Gandhi tweeted asking Adityanath to resign.
“Instead of protecting the victim and her family, your government became complicit in depriving her of every single human right, even in death. You have no moral right to continue as Chief Minister,” Gandhi said.
TMC MP Mahua Moitra also criticised the Modi government.
Twitter users also questioned the actions of the authorities and criticising the government.