Delhi Commission for Women Chairperson Swati Maliwal on Wednesday wrote a letter to Chief Justice of India SA Bobde and the judges of the Supreme Court, demanding “strictest and swiftest” punishment for the accused in the Hathras gangrape case. Maliwal also called for action against officials who tried to “cover up” the incident.

Maliwal’s letter came amid countrywide outrage over the death of a 19-year-old Dalit woman from Uttar Pradesh’s Hathras district and the way she was cremated. Two weeks ago, the woman was tortured and raped by four men. The woman’s family said that the police forcibly cremated her body around 3 am on Wednesday and that they were not allowed to take her body home.

“I am writing this letter to you with my head bowed in shame, my heart filled with sorrow and grief and my body chilling with pain and anger,” Maliwal wrote. “The brutal gangrape and murder of a 19-year-old Dalit girl by four men in Hathras has shaken our already shaken core.”

Maliwal added that the incident had exposed the apathy of the government towards women. “The victim was gangraped on September 14 and left to die in a field with grievous injuries,” she said. “Despite repeatedly pleas of the family, the local police failed to register a case of gang-rape or even rape and for 5 days the accused roamed scot-free.”

The women’s panel chief alleged that the Uttar Pradesh government delayed moving the woman for treatment to Delhi. “Despite her serious condition from day one, the government of Uttar Pradesh shifted the victim to Delhi only on September 28, where she succumbed the next day,” Maliwal said.

Maliwal also accused the state government of committing the “gravest of grave” human rights violation by not allowing her family to cremate her.

However, Uttar Pradesh Additional Director General of Police Prashant Kumar claimed that the final rites of the woman was conducted with the consent of her family members and in their presence, as the “body was putrefying”, ANI reported. “The details of the [post-mortem] examination will soon be out and shared,” he added.

Kumar said that the four arrested in the case will be tried for murder. “The prima-facie chronology indicates that the incident happened on September 14 and a complaint was registered,” Kumar added. “Thereafter on September 22, the victim revealed that she was gang-raped. The charges filed, were altered accordingly.”

The DCW chief put forth three requests in her letter. She asked for a high court-monitored inquiry into the case and the “strictest and swiftest punishment” for the accused. Maliwal also demanded the suspension of all police and administrative officials who covered up the crime. She also asked Bobde to set strict laws in place to ensure the safety of women.

Earlier on Wednesday, UP Chief Minister Adityanath formed a three-member Special Investigation Team to probe the Hathras gangrape amid outrage over the case. The team has been directed to submit a report within seven days. He has also directed that the case should be tried in a fast-track court. Adityanath said Prime Minister Narendra Modi had inquired about the gangrape and urged strict action against the accused.

Outrage across the country

Political leaders across party lines on Wednesday expressed grief and outrage over the death of a 19-year-old Dalit woman from Uttar Pradesh’s Hathras district and the way she was cremated.

Swaraj India President Yogendra Yadav called the incident India’s “George Floyd” moment. George Floyd was an African-American man who was killed by the Minneapolis police in May, triggering huge anti-racism protests across the United States and the world. “Even criminals are allowed dignified cremation,” Yadav said in a tweet. “Here is a rape victim being cremated by police at 2:30 am without family members. Could this happen if the family was not dalit?”

Congress Party members are stopped by the police in Varanasi during their protest march over the death of a woman after four upper caste men gangraped her in Hathras. Credit: PTI

Congress General Secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, who has been demanding that the Uttar Pradesh government take strict steps to reduce crimes against women, asked for Chief Minister Adityanath’s resignation. Her brother and Congress leader Rahul Gandhi and Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawat also expressed their grief.

Four men had raped and tortured the woman a fortnight ago, causing her severe injuries, including multiple fractures. The woman had been initially admitted to the Jawahar Lal Nehru Medical College And Hospital at the Aligarh Muslim University, but was moved to the Safdarjung Hospital in Delhi on Monday. She died on Tuesday morning. The four men have been arrested.

Also read:

  1. ‘Our own George Floyd moment’: Politicians outraged about Hathras woman’s hurried cremation
  2. In videos: How the Dalit woman raped in Hathras was cremated without letting her family say goodbye

Follow updates on the case here.