The family members of the Dalit woman, who died days after assault and gangrape in Hathras district of Uttar Pradesh, on Friday claimed that they were being stopped from talking to the media, ANI reported.
The police have imposed Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure in the district, which prohibits a gathering of four or more people. On Friday morning, the family sent out a minor to speak to the media. “They have taken the [family’s] phone,” the minor said. “My family sent me here and asked me to call the media because they wanted to speak.... [The police] is not letting them leave their home.”
After reporters asked the minor whether the police were intimidating them, he said officials had surrounded their home and adjoining lanes. He alleged that one of the police officers had assaulted his uncle. The boy claimed that he was able to reach the reporters after making his way through the fields.
As the boy was speaking to the media, a police officer came by and the minor ran away, according to ANI. The police officer also refused to comment when reporters asked why the family members were being stopped from talking to them.
Uttar Pradesh Congress attacked the Adityanath-led government, and accused it of banning the media’s entry into the village. “Look at Yogi [Adityanath]ji’s model,” it said in a tweet. “Media cannot enter the village. Relatives cannot use their phones. Families cannot meet anyone. Till this happens, Yogiji’s officials would make it seem as if the rape has not happened.”
Earlier in the day, Trinamool Congress leader Derek O’Brien was pushed to the ground by the Uttar Pradesh Police when he was going to meet the family members. The police also stopped the delegation of the party MPs, including Kakoli Ghosh Dastidar and Pratima Mondal, from entering the village.
On Thursday, the police filed a case against Congress leaders Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, hours after they were detained on their way to Hathras.
The Delhi Police have also banned any kind of large gatherings in and around India Gate on Friday ahead of a protest planned in front of the war memorial against the gangrape. Bhim Army chief Chandrashekhar Azad has called for a protest in the evening at the India Gate to demand answers from Prime Minister Narendra Modi over the gangrape of the young Dalit woman.
“How long will you stay silent, Prime Minister?” Azad asked in a video message. “You will have to give answers. Today, at 5 pm, we are coming to India Gate to demand answers. Your silence is a danger for our daughters.”
Meanwhile, Hathras District Magistrate PK Laxkar refuted charges of any rift between him and the family members of the Dalit woman. A video of Laxkar speaking rudely with the family was widely shared on social media. “Do not finish your credibility,” Laxkar can be heard telling the family in the video. “These media people...some left today and tomorrow more will leave. Only we will be here with you. Ok? It is up to you whether you want to change your statement or not. We can also change.”
Later, the district magistrate claimed that the rumours were false and he was meeting the family to “see their point of discontent”.
Four upper-caste men raped and brutally assaulted the woman in Hathras on September 14. The woman died in New Delhi’s Safdarjung Hospital in the early hours of Tuesday. The woman suffered suffered multiple fractures, a spinal injury and a deep cut in her tongue. The four men have been arrested. The incident has led to nationwide protests.
The family members have alleged that the authorities did not take their permission before cremating their daughter in the early hours of Wednesday. 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.
The Allahabad High Court took suo motu cognisance of the incident and the events leading up to the cremation of the woman. The court has directed top officials of the Uttar Pradesh government and the police to appear before it on October 12, saying the cremation “shocked their conscience”. The National Commission for Women also asked Uttar Pradesh’s director general of police to explain why the woman was cremated so quickly.