A former Bharatiya Janata Party MLA Rajveer Pahalwan on Sunday called a meeting of upper caste members at his home in Hathras district of Uttar Pradesh to support the accused amid massive outrage over the brutal gangrape of a 19-year-old Dalit woman, reported Hindustan Times.
Four upper-caste Thakur 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. She suffered suffered multiple fractures, a spinal injury and a deep cut in her tongue. The four men have been arrested.
Protests erupted in several parts of India after her late night cremation, that was carried out against the wishes of her family.
During the meeting on Sunday, Pahalwan claimed the four accused were not guilty. He added that the Central Bureau of Investigation inquiry will “reveal the truth about the incident”. The members of the upper caste community also raised concern about the woman’s family refusing to take narco-analysis, also known as lie-detector tests.
Around 700 to 800 people attending the meeting, according to PTI. Nearly 500 people had assembled at the BJP leader’s house, reported NDTV. Pahalwan claimed that he was involved in this in a “personal capacity”. Pahalwan’s son Manveer Singh, however, denied that the gathering only comprised members of upper castes and said they were from different sections of society.
“People want a CBI inquiry into the matter so that the truth comes out,” the BJP leader told reporters. “All news channels are propagating fake news. No such incident happened, rape did not occur...All the accusations are incorrect and the CBI will conduct a proper investigation.”
“We welcome the CBI inquiry ordered by the Uttar Pradesh chief minister,” Singh told PTI. “We have faith in the investigation. The entire scenario has been created to blame the government. The accused persons are in favour of any type of inquiry. But the victims are changing their stand every now and then. They do not want a narco test or a CBI probe. Now they want other kinds of inquiries.”
Singh added that various legal options were being looked into to defend the accused. He claimed that the arrest of a few of the accused from their homes was evidence of their innocence. “Had they been guilty, they would have run away from their homes,” he added.
The BJP leader’s son accused the Congress and the Samajwadi Party of trying to influence the victim’s family.
A group of advocates, who participated in the meeting, said they will meet the Special Investigation Team formed by the state government to inquire into the matter, according to Hindustan Times. The investigators have recommended that narco-analysis polygraph tests be conducted on the police officials, the accused and the woman’s family.
One of the organisers claimed the police had been informed about the meeting, and called for a first information report against the woman’s family. However, Joint Magistrate Prem Prakash Meena told NDTV that he had no knowledge of it. “There is no pressure on the victim’s family,” he added. “Political leaders can meet the family in groups of five.”
Another similar gathering was held on Friday near the woman’s village. Large gatherings are, however, prohibited in Hathras district.
Meanwhile, Bhim Army chief Chandrashekhar Azad on Sunday marched to meet the family of the Dalit woman. This came a day after former Congress president Rahul Gandhi and party General Secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra met the members of the woman’s family. Vadra continued her attack on the Uttar Pradesh administration and raised some of the family’s concerns.