A group of former civil servants wrote to Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Adityanath about the “brazen violation of the rule of law” in the state, in the context of the Hathras gangrape and murder. The 92 signatories to the letter severely criticised the handling of the case by the Uttar Pradesh Police.

“Just when we thought that nothing could numb our consciences and brains further, the handling of the Hathras incident by the Uttar Pradesh administration has shown that, as a nation, we are plumbing the depths of depravity and callousness in governance,” they said.

The signatories said that three weeks after a Dalit woman was assaulted, the police were yet to confirm the crime of rape and are still “spinning theories around it”, though a video of an apparent dying declaration seemed to confirm rape.

“Her neck was lacerated, her spinal column was broken and there were cuts on her tongue. Instead of promptly admitting her to a hospital with advanced facilities for dealing with trauma, she was allowed to languish in the Jawaharlal Nehru Medical College and Hospital, Aligarh. She was moved to Delhi only two weeks after the incident, that too on the request of her family, a case of too little, too late.” 

— The letter

She was moved to New Delhi for treatment two weeks after the crime, a day before she died.

The former civil servants also criticised the haste with which the woman’s body was cremated, calling it a violation of Hindu customs. They said that the family’s pleas to perform the cremation a few hours later were ignored. The signatories also deplored the district magistrate making veiled threats to the family of the deceased.

“It is being touted in the media that the Prime Minister has asked you to ‘fast track’ this case to secure an early conviction,” the signatories wrote. They said they had highlighted the brazen violations of the rule of law in the Unnao rape case, and in the murder of a police inspector during violence in Bulandshahr. Even two years after the murder of the policeman, the Uttar Pradesh Police has been unable to bring the case to a close, they said. “In these circumstances, we may be forgiven for viewing UP’s fast track justice system with scepticism,” the signatories said.

The ex-civil servants said that the interpretation of “fast track justice” that the Uttar Pradesh government has used is problematic, highlighting the death of two accused who were being transported to Uttar Pradesh earlier this year.

“Your administration has also initiated draconian measures against anti-CAA protesters, including detention and levy of punitive fines. You seem to believe in combining the roles of judge and executioner, as evidenced in a recent interview where you advocated the philosophy of ‘an eye for an eye’.”

The signatories said that the Hathras district administration does not have any compunctions about flouting human sentiments. They demanded that those complicit in these violations of law and tradition must be punished. The signatories said that while the superintendent of police has been suspended, the same should be done to District Magistrate Praveen Kumar Laxkar.

“We also note with regret that the chief secretary and the director general of police have failed abjectly in exercising control over a highly compromised administration,” the former civil servants said. “We urge them to live up to the proud traditions of the Indian Administrative Service and the Indian Police Service, in whom the people of this country still repose faith.”

However, the signatories said that the ultimate responsibility rests with the chief minister, who is the chief executive of the state. They said that his actions over the past three-and-a-half years do not show a respect for the law. They asked Adityanath to conduct the administration in accordance with the letter and spirit of the Constitution of India.

“In the present instance, we hope you will deliver justice to the victim and her family, without fear or favour, despite the efforts of specific upper caste groups to interfere with the course of justice. We also hope you will ensure that officers of your administration implement the rule of law in a just and fair manner.”

The Hathras case

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 September 29. 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.

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.

Congress leaders Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi were on Thursday stopped from travelling to Hathras and then detained. They were later released and escorted back to New Delhi. However, they travelled to the town on Saturday, along with three other Congress leaders.

Trinamool Congress leader Derek O’Brien was on Friday pushed to the ground by the Uttar Pradesh police when he was going to Hathras to meet the family members of the Dalit woman. A delegation of the party MPs, including Kakoli Ghosh Dastidar and Pratima Mondalhave, were stopped by the police as they tried to enter the village.

The family members of the deceased woman have also alleged that they have been prevented from talking to the media.