Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Adityanath on Tuesday alleged that the Opposition was spreading propaganda to destabilise the government over the Hathras gangrape, reported The Indian Express. He said that his political rivals were using the rape to whip up animosity and create divides in society.

“You must have seen their faces, those who protested against the CAA [Citizenship Amendment Act]; those who, during the corona pandemic, sheltered Tablighi Jamaat to try and spread the disease…who tried to spread anarchy at different levels in the state…not only did the government unmask them but also took steps to counter these elements,” said Adityanath in Lucknow.

The Uttar Pradesh government often lauds itself for the crackdown on anti citizenship law protestors. The state government had used multiple measures, including name-and-shame posters and recovering damages to public property, to crack down on protestors.

The chief minister said the Opposition was trying to hinder development. “The Opposition has no other issue to raise than indulge in negative publicity,” he added. “They are constantly trying to create divides…create hindrances [in development].”

Four upper-caste Thakur men had brutally raped and tortured a Dalit woman on September 14. Shesuccumbed 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.

Earlier also, Adityanath had made similar allegations that the BJP’s political opponents were attempting to conspire against it by “trying to lay a foundation for caste and communal riots through international funding”. The state police have also filed 19 first information reports in Hathras against unidentified persons for allegedly attempting to incite caste-based conflict after the woman’s death last week.

Adityanath’s remarks came on the same day the Bharatiya Janata Party for the first time accused the Opposition of creating “vote bank” politics over the Hathras crime.

“Any crime – rape, murder – is committed against a daughter, whether Dalit or poor, is abhorrent irrespective of which government is there,” said BJP General Secretary Dushyant Gautam. “It is sad when people pick a crime looking at who is in power and which community the murderers or rapists belong to…what is the vote bank there.”

State still denies rape even occurred

The Uttar Pradesh administration has consistently denied that the woman was raped, based on a report from the forensic lab that had said there were no traces of sperm in samples taken from her. However, the chief medical officer at Jawaharlal Nehru Medical College – where the woman was admitted – said the forensic lab’s 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. The autopsy report of the woman had showed that she was strangled and suffered a cervical spine injury. The final diagnosis did not mention rape, but had pointed out that there were tears in her genitalia and there had been “use of force”.

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 about whether this was done to suppress medical evidence of sexual assault.

An unidentified senior BJP leader has said the chief minister acted on suggestions by bureaucrats. “No one seemed to have told the chief minister that police pushing for the cremation of a Dalit girl at night, all captured on camera, sends a very negative signal,” he told The Indian Express. “They had convinced the CM that it was needed to avoid any law and order incident in the morning. It was a bureaucratic response, not a political one and it hurt us. That it was wrong was evident the next day when temperatures went down once we lifted the blockade and allowed people to meet the family.”