Uttar Pradesh’s Hathras has become the focal point of India’s political discourse off late, following allegations of a brutal physical assault of a Dalit girl at the hands of four men. With time, however, the details of the case continue to get murkier, instead of the nation being served with clarity as to what actually transpired on 14 September, the day when the victim was allegedly gang-raped and physically assaulted by the four accused now under the custody of UP Police. Various potential dimensions of the case are now beginning to emerge.
Whether it be political parties’ enthusiasm at putting up a naked display of shamelessness, or allegations now surfacing of the case, in fact, being that of honour killing, supplemented with various forensic reports ruling out rape, the Hathras case seems nothing like what has been reported so far by a media whose interests lie in complete contestation of the prevalence and upkeep of law and order, not to mention communal harmony, in India, and the state of Uttar Pradesh, ruled by saffron-clad Yogi Adityanath in particular.
On September 14, the victim’s family has alleged, that one Sandeep physically assaulted the victim, which led to grievous injuries to her neck and spine. According to Zee News, the victim and her family, in the first statements made absolutely no mention of rape and sexual assault, but only spoke of one Sandeep indulging in physical assault due to a family feud between the victim and the accused’s families. Interestingly, a Jagran report, which was among the first to cover the incident, made no mention of rape and sexual assault, leave alone spinning theories of rape having been done due to the victim’s caste. This narrative was reported steadily, and in the progression of one media report after the other, beginning with the Times of India. According to the Inspector of Chandpa Police Station – Deepak Sharma, the two families are even fighting a court case.
Meanwhile, a Jagran report dated October 3, makes mention of a senior Congress leader, Shyoraj Jivan meeting the family. After gross politicisation of the case, the victim’s family had charges of eve-teasing and rape pressed against the accused. It is important to note that originally, the victim and her family had named only one Sandeep as the accused; while three others, who eyewitnesses claim were nowhere near the crime scene as per Zee News, were also named by the victim as individuals who had gang-raped her. The allegations of gangrape against the four accused were made eight days after the crime by the victim and her family, with no mention of the same in the intervening period.
Another Jagran report published on October 3 has left many in split minds. It is a widely known and reported fact that it was the victim’s mother, who by her own admission, found her daughter in a semi-naked condition in the field. However, the Jagran report mentions the victim’s elder brother saying that he was at the field but far away and thattheir mother had already gone home with the grass. He says that he was the one who found the victim. The same brother, who earlier claimed to have found the victim, then goes on to blame his mother for not finding the girl earlier, so that, investigations could have proceeded faster.
Interestingly, perhaps owing to their regular flip-flops,the victim’s family is dead opposed to the idea of a CBI probe which has been ordered by the UP-Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath despite their reservations to the same. Further, the family has also refused to be administered with Narco-polygraph tests, which in layman’s terms are often referred to as the ‘Lie Detector Test’.
Already, the Hathras case has politicians drooling all over it, with the hand of a senior Congress leader of UP said to be behind the victim’s family pushing charges of rape against the accused. Meanwhile, Zee News has also reported quoting eyewitnesses that Ramu, who is Sandeep’s uncle, was never near the crime scene on 14 September, and was instead, working in a nearby dairy chiller where he is employed. Ramu, too, has been named as an accused in the rape and murder of the victim, who named the three additional accused as perpetrators of rape only after eight days of the alleged crime. When Zee News approached the dairy owner, it was revealed that Ramu was indeed working his shift on September 14 between 7:30 am to 12:00 pm, the period during which the physical assault is said to have taken place. He even mentioned that Ramu had signed the register of attendance, even as his colleagues too saw him working. Shift manager Madhusudhan even produced a photograph of Ramu working at the plant on September 14.
Another accused – Luvkush’ mother claims that when the victim was lying injured on the field, her son was sent to give the injured girl water. In the aftermath, he too was charged for the gangrape of the 19-year old girl, the mother said. In another shocking revelation, Omkar Singh, who claims to be an eyewitness, has indicated a possible ‘honour killing’ angle to the entire case, alleging that it was, in fact, the mother and brother of the victim who physically assaulted the girl. When asked why her own family would so brutally assault their girl, Omkar Singh said that Sandeep and the victim were involved in a romantic affair.
ये हो क्या रहा है, मिडिया ये क्यों नहीं दिखा रही ?
— Social Tamasha (@SocialTamasha) October 3, 2020
This, despite the fact that the two families share a family feud. In what cements such allegations of Omkar Singh, Zee News got hold of call records of the victim’s family, which showed that a number registered in the name of the victim’s elder brother, had, in fact, shared a call history of over five hours with the phone number of Sandeep between October 2019 and March 2020. When asked as to whether he ever spoke to Sandeep over the phone, the victim’s brother categorically denied. This serves as proof that Sandeep, who now stands accused of rape and murder, was romantically involved with the victim. Only a thorough investigation can bring more clarity on this angle of the case.
Even as spine-chilling and shameful politics is played out in the name of bringing justice to the Hathras victim, a nefarious plot to stoke communal and caste-based tensions has been busted by the UP Police, who have detained four Popular Front of India (PFI) workers – Atiq-ur Rehman of Muzaffarnagar, Siddique of Malappuram, Masood Ahmed of Bahraich and Alam of Rampur with literature which could have had an impact on peace and order in the state. The four menwere held while they were on their way to Hathras from Delhi, police said.
The Enforcement Directorate (ED), meanwhile, has also swung into action, and is investigating a now downed website called “Justice for Hathras Victim”. The link is now under probe for dubious activities and collection of funds. The ED will, in all likelihood, be filing a criminal case under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA). According to Outlook, once an ED case is registered under criminal sections of the PMLA, they said, the agency can make enquiries from foreign regulators and investigative agencies to probe the details of money collected and utilised by individuals.The agency, sources said, will also examine the “ultimate beneficiaries” of the money collected by this web portal and the service provider can be asked to share the IP address or addresses from where the webpage was launched.
It would be unwise to conclude anything in relation to the incident which occurred in Bulghadi village of UP’s Hathras on September 14 until a high-level CBI or court-monitored probe is completed in the matter. With details shady at best, and with the media and certain political entities working overtime to devise a ‘caste’ angle to the case, it would not be prudent for anyone to fall for any kind of media reports which further a caste angle in the case, or those which report only the victim and her family’s version of the story. A possibility of the Hathras case ending up as the Kathua one did, cannot be ruled out.