The sister-in-law of a 19-year-old Dalit woman, who died after she was allegedly gang-raped and tortured by four men from an upper-caste community in Uttar Pradesh’s Hathras, claimed on Saturday that police had cremated someone else’s body earlier this week, News18 reported.
“First of all, police should clarify whose body was cremated that night,” the sister-in-law told the channel. “It wasn’t our girl’s body, we didn’t see it.”
The mother of the 19-year-old woman said the police did not hand over her daughter’s body after her death. “These people didn’t let me see the body of my girl even after I kept begging for it,” the mother said.
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 multiple fractures, a spinal injury and a deep cut in her tongue. The four men have been arrested.
The incident has sparked public grief and anger and has become emblematic of the caste-based violence faced by Dalit women in Uttar Pradesh. Criticism mounted, after the police took her body to a field in the death of the night and cremated it against the family’s wishes. The police, however, has denied the allegation.
A day later, the police claimed that the woman’s forensic report showed she was not raped. Experts, however, pointed out that since the samples for the test were collected days after the crime, sperm would not be present. The hasty manner in which the body was cremated, with the woman’s family locked up in their house, has raised doubts whether this was done to suppress medical evidence of sexual assault.
Amid countrywide outrage over the case, Chief Minister Adityanath had on Wednesday formed a three-member SIT, which was instructed to submit its report by October 14. On Friday, he suspended Hathras Superintendent of Police Vikrant Vir and four other police officers.
But the woman’s mother demanded a Supreme Court-monitored probe, saying the Special Investigation Team was “hand in glove” with the accused. “We don’t want the CBI enquiry either,” the mother added. “We want that the investigation of the case be conducted under a Supreme Court Judge.”
She also questioned why the SIT has asked for a narco-polygraph test of all the people involved in the case, including the accused and the family. “Why should we go for a NARCO test, we never changed our statement,” she said.
Earlier in the day, Hathras Sub-Divisional Magistrate Prem Prakash Meena announced that restrictions on the entry of media persons to the woman’s village have been lifted, ANI reported.
“Since SIT probe in the village is complete, the restriction on media has been lifted,” he said. Meena also dismisses allegations that the police have confiscated the phones of the woman’s family and placed them under a virtual house arrest.
However, the woman’s sister-in-law said nobody from the SIT visited their house on Friday. “They came day before yesterday and were here from around 9 am till 2.30 pm,” she added. “We were stopped from going outside in order to stop us from interacting with media. Why was body of our girl not showed to us? We don’t trust SIT as they are hand in gloves with the administration.”