Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Adityanath on Wednesday gave a ten-day extension to the Special Investigation Team constituted by his government to submit their report on the death and gangrape of a 19-year-old Dalit woman in Hathras, ANI reported. The three-member team was supposed to submit its findings on Wednesday.
The special team includes UP Home Secretary Bhagwan Swaroop, Deputy Inspector General of Police Chandraprakash and police officer Poonam, according to NDTV.
“The SIT team probing the Hathras case has been given 10 days more time to submit their report,” said Awanish K Awasthi, state additional chief secretary, home department. “The team was supposed to submit the report to the chief minister today [Wednesday] but the scope of investigation of the team has been extended on the order of the chief minister.”
Four upper-caste Thakur men had brutally raped and tortured the woman, who succumbed to her injuries on September 29. The Uttar Pradesh administration had then hurriedly cremated her body against her family’s wishes while they had been locked inside their home, leading to an outpouring of anger and protests.
Amid countrywide outrage over the case, Adityanath had on September 30 formed the three-member SIT, which was instructed to submit its report within seven days. He also suspended Hathras Superintendent of Police Vikrant Vir and four other police officers, based on a report by the team.
The three-member SIT arrived at the woman’s village on Sunday and met her family. Ahead of their visit, the authorities had banned large gatherings and ordered that no politician or mediaperson will be allowed entry into the village of the woman until the panel completed its probe. The ban, however, was later lifted.
On Tuesday, the team visited the scene of crime and the site where the woman was cremated. The team was accompanied by a forensic expert who examined the fields where the 19-year-old had been found severely injured, bleeding and with her tongue cut.
“Our probe will be completed by tomorrow [Thursday],” an unidentified official from the SIT panel told NDTV. “We hope that we can submit the report to the state government tomorrow itself. If we’re unable to complete the probe due to any reason, we can another day or two.”
On October 2, the SIT panel had asked for a narco-polygraph test of all the people involved in the case, including the accused and the woman’s family. A polygraph test, or a lie-detector test, is based on the assumption that physiological responses that are triggered when a person is lying are different from what they would be otherwise.
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The Uttar Pradesh government and the police’s handling of the case has come under intense scrutiny. The incident has become emblematic of the caste-based violence faced by Dalit women in the state.
Besides this, the sequence of events around the crime and the hasty cremation by authorities have also raised doubts whether this was done to suppress medical evidence of sexual assault.
Amid mounting pressure and protests, Adityanath on October 3 recommended a Central Bureau of Investigation-monintered inquiry in the case. The matter is being heard by the Supreme Court, which asked the Uttar Pradesh government on Tuesday to file an affidavit on how the witnesses are being protected in the case.
Ahead of the hearing, the Uttar Pradesh government in an affidavit claimed that the midnight cremation was done to avoid large-scale violence in the district. Besides the alleged gangrape and assault case, the government also sought a CBI probe into the FIR related to the alleged criminal conspiracy to spread caste conflict, instigate violence and incidents of “vicious propaganda by sections of media and political interests”.
The government also informed the court that there were no signs suggestive of rape in the case, citing a forensic report that said there were no traces of sperm in samples taken from the woman. But the chief medical officer at Jawaharlal Nehru Medical College – where the woman was first admitted – had negated this, saying the report “holds no value” as it relied on samples taken 11 days after the crime was committed. Experts have also pointed out that since the samples for the test were collected many days after the crime was committed, sperm would not be present.