Hours after his sister was cremated without her family present, the 28-year-old brother of the Hathras gang rape victim said, “We did not even get to see her face once. We don’t even know if the person they cremated was my sister.”
The family of the 20-year-old Dalit woman, who was raped by four men of a dominant caste in Boolgarhi village of Hathras on 14 September, say the Uttar Pradesh Police forcibly cremated her without their permission in the early hours of the morning on 30 September.
The following account suggests the Uttar Pradesh police did not allow the victim’s grieving family the chance to perform her last rites to suppress public demands for accountability from the state government headed by the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) Ajay Singh Bisht, who goes by the name of Yogi Adityanath.
The four suspects arrested in the case are from a dominant caste.
UP has seen several rapes including minors over the summer, amid a raging coronavirus pandemic. The BJP government in UP is under fire for yet another horrific assault on a woman and the inexplicable behaviour of its policemen who cremated her body without her family’s consent.
The victim’s brother told HuffPost India that neither the authorities nor the police at the Safdarjung Hospital in Delhi, where the young woman had been fighting for her life, informed his father and younger brother when they headed back to the Hathras with her body on the afternoon of 29 September.
When the police and family finally converged on a road near a cemetery close to Boolgarhi village after midnight on 30 September, there were heated arguments between family and the police about letting them take her body home, the brother said.
“We wanted to bring her home to bid farewell to her in our traditional way,” he said. “People from our community would see her and she would have one last journey in our village.”
India Today’s Tanushree Pandey who was at the scene tweeted out videos in which one can hear a UP policeman say, “Traditions change with time and you must admit to some mistakes on your part. The body is with us now. Bitiya’s (daughter) postmortem was done almost 12 hours ago. Please think about it. No where is it written that a cremation can’t take place at night.”
Someone among the onlookers can be heard asking, “Are you under political pressure.”
Then, close to three in the morning, Pandey tweeted a video which showed a body being cremated in the background, while she repeatedly asks a police officer at the scene whose body is being cremated.
This police officer refused to answer.
“The last rites of the victim has been performed. Police and administration will ensure that the perpetrators of the crime are brought to justice,” Prem Prakash Meena, Join Magistrate said, ANI reported close to four in the morning.
“They are trying to suppress my sister’s case,” the woman’s brother told HuffPost India over the phone. “They don’t want Dalits to have a voice.”
Locked the door
The 28-year-old brother of the victim said his family members are dairy farmers, who have been out of work since the lockdown.
The brother said that his father and younger brother found out that the police were heading back to Hathras with the woman’s body almost an hour after the police had left. “First, they said that she is in the mortuary. Then, they said she is no longer here,” he said.
The brother said that his father and brother followed, traveling with the police. But instead of bringing his family members home, he said that the police tried taking them directly to the cremation ground.
The brother said that his family members were not allowed to see his sister’s corpse. Two of his aunts and a male relative were hurt in an ensuing lathi-charge. “They were not letting anyone near the ambulance,” he said. “My aunt broke her bangle and it dug into her skin.”
The brother said that after they refused to cremate her night and the matter came to a standstill, the family returned home believing that they would see her body in the morning.
But the police followed them home and insisted they attend her cremation, the brother said. “They were forcibly taking my father and brother,” he said. “They were putting so much pressure on us. They said you have to cremate her now. We had to lock the gate of the house.”
The next thing they heard was that the UP Police had cremated her, the brother said.
“We had never imagined that they would cremate her without her family,” he said.
The brother said that his family wants justice for his sister and for the UP Police to be held accountable for cremating her without their consent.
“We want the CBI to look into it,” he said, referring to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). “We want to move the Supreme Court.”