Congress President Sonia Gandhi on Wednesday heavily criticised the Adityanath-led dispensation in Uttar Pradesh for the gangrape and torture of a Dalit woman in Hathras, saying she was “killed by a ruthless government” that is now trying to cover up the matter.

Four upper-caste men raped and tortured the 19-year-old Dalit woman near their village in Hathras district in Uttar Pradesh a fortnight ago, causing her severe injuries, including multiple fractures. The woman had initially been 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.

On Wednesday, the Uttar Pradesh Police did not let the complainant’s family see her body, locked them up in their home, and cremated her around 3 am. Videos on social media showed the family arguing with policemen and weeping as the police insisted on cremating the woman without allowing them to take the body home.

“There was an attempt to hush up the matter,” Sonia Gandhi said in a video posted on the Congress’ official Twitter handle. “The girl was not given timely treatment and a daughter is now no longer among us. I want to say that Hathras’ Nirbhaya has not died, she has been killed – by a ruthless government, by its administration and by the UP government’s ignorance.”

The Congress president accused the state police of carrying out a “forcible cremation” and said the woman was robbed of her dignity even in death. He said she was “cremated like an orphan”.

“When she was alive, she was not heard, she was not protected, and after her death she was deprived of her home. She was not handed over to her family and a crying mother was not even given the chance to say goodbye to her daughter. This is a big sin.”  

— Sonia Gandhi

Gandhi added that the country would speak up against the deteriorating law and order situation in Uttar Pradesh under Adityanath’s rule. “What kind of justice is this?” she asked. “What kind of a government is this? You think that you can do anything and the country will just keep looking? No, the country will speak out against your injustice.”

The state administration’s high-handedness and the surreptitious manner in which the woman’s body was hastily cremated has sparked public outrage. Several politicians have called it an abuse of human rights and have questioned the exploitative caste hierarchy in the state under Adityanath’s rule.

The Congress has been at the forefront of a state-wide campaign against the BJP over the matter and has demanded Adityanath’s resignation.

Party leader Priyanka Gandhi pointed out a pattern of such crimes of sexual violence against women while highlighting similar incidents in Shahjahanpur and Gorakhpur in the recent past and demanded strict punishment for the guilty.

“The law and order situation in Uttar Pradesh has completely deteriorated,” she had said. “There is no sign of any safety for women. Criminals are roaming freely.” Gandhi added that Adityanath had no moral right to be the chief minister of the state.

Rahul Gandhi had said the hurried cremation of the woman’s body was was a “shameful ploy” of the Uttar Pradesh government to suppress Dalits and “show them their place”. “Our fight is against this hateful thinking,” he had added.

TMC questions Modi’s silence

The Trinamool Congress on Wednesday questioned the silence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the incident, which took place in a BJP-ruled state and said he should speak up for Dalits if he had “any humanity left in him”.

“An unspeakable crime committed in Hathras under narendra modiji’s reign and he was silent,” Trinamool Youth Congress MP Abhishek Banerjee wrote on Twitter. “#Modispeakup4dalits if you have any humanity left inside.”

TMC’s Rajya Sabha MP Derek O’ Brien also condemned the attack on Dalits and demanded justice for them. “Dalits are our wealth,” he tweeted. “We strongly condemn any act of torture against them. If such an incident occurs, we take the strictest action. But many incidents do not come before the public. Dalits are an integral part of our society. We are committed to their justice.”

However, the West Bengal unit of the BJP hit back and said the TMC should first focus on the rising crimes against women in the state, PTI reported. West Bengal BJP President Dilip Ghosh asked TMC leaders to “stop shedding crocodile tears”.

“Under the TMC regime, crimes against women have gone up in the state,” Gosh added. “They should first set their own house in order and then lecture others.”