National Commission for Women Chairperson Rekha Sharma on Sunday said it was “illegal and unfortunate” for Bharatiya Janata Party IT Cell head Amit Malviya to have shared a video on Twitter of the 19-year-old Dalit woman who was gangraped in Uttar Pradesh’s Hathras district, The Indian Express reported. The woman died on September 29 after four upper-caste Thakur men gangraped and tortured her.
“If she is a rape victim, then the incident of tweeting the video is really very unfortunate and is also absolutely illegal,” Sharma told the newspaper.
She added that she will personally speak to Malviya and the state police. “If it turns out that she was a rape victim, then the NCW will take the issue forward to its logical end,” she said.
“Courts have said over and over again that a rape victim’s identity cannot be revealed in any which way. When we send statements, we are also very careful to never reveal the identity of a rape victim. The UP Police had issued a statement saying that she was not a victim of rape. Nevertheless there seems to be some confusion. I will be speaking with Amit Malviya as well as the UP Police personally on the matter. If it turns out that she was a rape victim, then the NCW will take the issue forward to its logical end.”— National Commission for Women Chairperson Rekha Sharma
Malviya had tweeted the video on October 2, in which the woman was heard saying that she had been strangled as she resisted her perpetrators. She was lying on the ground and her face was visible.
“Haathras victim’s interaction with a reporter outside AMU [Aligarh Muslim University] where she claimed there was an attempt to strangulate her neck,” Malviya had written in text that accompanied the video. “None of it is to take away from the atrocity of the crime but unfair to colour it and demean the gravity of one heinous crime against another.”
The video is still available on his Twitter handle.
In another tweet later in the day, Malviya claimed that the woman’s medical reports did not show rape. “Neither the woman nor her mother spoke of rape in their initial statements,” he said.
Uttar Pradesh State Commission for Women chief Vimla Batham also told The Sunday Express that if the video revealed the woman’s identity, it was “definitely objectionable”. Batham added that the commission will take cognisance and serve Malviya a notice if this is true.
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Priti Gandhi, the national chief of social media with the BJP’s Mahila Morcha had defended Malviya. “Can you elaborate which law is violated if video of the victim is posted?” she had said in response to fact-checking website AltNews co-founder Pratik Sinha’s tweet, asking for action against Malviya. “Not one report suggests that she was sexually assaulted. It is only a fiction of Lutyen media’s imagination. Are we governed by rule of law or the hallucinations of a few??!!”
Under Section 228A of the Indian Penal Code, it is illegal to reveal the identity of a person who has been sexual assaulted. “Whoever prints or publishes the name or any matter which may make known the identity of any person against whom an offence under section 376, section 376A, section 376B, section 376C or section 376D is alleged or found to have been committed (hereafter in this section referred to as the victim) shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to two years and shall also be liable to fine,” the section reads.
The Hathras gangrape and murder has triggered rage and shock across the nation. The Adityanath-led Uttar Pradesh government is facing immense criticism over its handling of the case, after which the chief minister on Saturday ordered a Central Bureau of Investigation inquiry into the case.
Four upper caste Thakur men gangraped and tortured the 19-year-old woman on September 14, and she died in New Delhi on September 29. The woman was hastily cremated by police on Wednesday midnight, without allowing her family to perform the last rites.
Uttar Pradesh’s Additional Director General of Police (Law and Order) Prashant Kumar had on Thursday denied that the case involved rape. “The FSL (Forensic Science Laboratory) report hasn’t found sperm in samples, making it clear that some people twisted the matter to stir caste-based tension,” he had told reporters. Kumar also claimed the rape allegations were fabricated by people seeking to incite caste tension, since the woman was Dalit.
However, the medico-legal report of the Hathras gangrape complainant, prepared by the hospital in Aligarh, Uttar Pradesh, where she was first admitted, has shown that doctors had recorded “complete penetration of the vagina” and the use of force in their preliminary exam. Experts also pointed out that since the samples for the test were collected several days after the crime, sperm would not be present.