Sandeep Thakur, the main accused in the gangrape and murder of a 19-year-old Dalit woman in Hathras, on Wednesday wrote to the Uttar Pradesh Police claiming he and the other three other men from the upper-caste community were being framed in the case, NDTV reported. Thakur claimed he was innocent and asked the police to “get them justice”.

This came a day after the police of Uttar Pradesh suggested there was evidence to prove that the woman’s family knew one of the accused. They claimed call records revealed that the woman’s brother was in touch with Thakur and that “some 104 calls” were made between them from October last year to March.

In his letter, Thakur claimed the woman, who was brutally tortured and injured during the assault, was victim of honour killing as her family was opposed to their “friendship”. “Apart from meeting, we used to speak on the phone once in a while,” he claimed. The letter has the thumb impressions of all four accused.

He also accused the woman’s mother and brother of torturing her. In his version of events, Thakur claimed that he had gone to meet the complainant on the day she was raped in the fields, “where her mother and brothers were also present”. He claimed the woman asked her to go back after which, he went to feed his cattle.

“I later got to know from the villagers that her mother and brothers beat her up over our friendship, injuring her badly,” the letter added. “I have never beaten her or done anything wrong with her. Her mother and brothers falsely accused me and three others and sent us to jail. We’re all innocent. Request you to please investigate and get us justice.”

The family of the woman, however, rejected the allegations. “I have lost my daughter,” the father told NDTV. “Now they are trying to malign us. We are not afraid. The allegations are totally false. We don’t need want any compensation or any money. We want justice.”

Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi also accused the police of maligning the woman’s character and said the complainant deserved “justice not slander”.

“Creating a narrative that defames a woman’s character and holding her somehow responsible for crimes committed against her is revolting and regressive,” she added. “A heinous crime has been committed at Hathras, leaving a 20-year-old Dalit woman dead. Her body has been burned without the participation or consent of her family. She deserves justice not slander.”

The case

The woman, who was brutally raped and tortured, had succumbed to her injuries on September 29. After her death, the Uttar Pradesh 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 across the country.

The sequence of events around the crime – with the hasty cremation, and the administration’s denial that this was a caste-based crime, or even a case of rape – have raised doubts whether the authorities were trying to suppress medical evidence of sexual assault or shield the accused.

On Wednesday, the woman’s family moved the Allahabad High Court against their “illegal confinement” at home by district authorities. The woman’s family members alleged that they were locked up in their house by the district administration on September 29 (the day the woman died) and September 30.

Earlier in the day, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Adityanath 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.

Amid mounting pressure and protests, Adityanath had 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”.

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