Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Sunday criticised the Uttar Pradesh government and the police for denying that the 19-year-old Dalit woman from the state’s Hathras district was raped. The gangrape case has triggered shock and outrage across the country.

“The shameful truth is many Indians don’t consider Dalits, Muslims and Tribals to be human,” Gandhi said in a tweet. “The CM [Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath] and his police say no one was raped because for them, and many other Indians, she was NO ONE.” He shared the link to a BBC report on why the police were denying rape.

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 – had said earlier this week that the forensic lab 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”.

Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra are among several opposition leaders who have strongly criticised the UP police’s conduct in the case and put pressure on the Adityanath-led government to give justice to the woman’s family.

The two Congress leaders had met the woman’s family on October 3. They had tried to go to Hathras on October 1 too, but were detained by the police. Later in the day, the police filed a first information report against them under sections 188, 269 and 270 of the Indian Penal Code and Section 3 of the Epidemic Diseases Act.

Developments in the Hathras case

The Central Bureau of Investigation on Sunday filed a case in connection with the Hathras gangrape, ANI reported. This came a day after the agency took over the case from the UP Police.

The FIR was filed in Ghaziabad. It listed rape, gangrape and attempt to murder as the offences, according to the news agency. The case was filed against an accused, who according to the woman’s brother had tried to strangle her on September 14.

On October 3, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Adityanath had recommended the CBI inquiry as protests erupted in several parts of India. The state government had also requested the Supreme Court to direct a CBI investigation not only into the gangrape but also into the case relating to an alleged criminal conspiracy to spread caste conflict by sections of media and political parties. The state police have also filed 19 first information reports in Hathras against unidentified persons for allegedly attempting to incite caste-based conflict.

Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam women's wing workers stage a protest in Chennai on Monday. | PTI

On September 14, four upper-caste Thakur men had tortured and raped the Dalit woman. She died on September 29, a day after being moved to the Safdarjung Hospital in Delhi. She had suffered multiple fractures and other serious injuries, and was left paralysed. The four men have been arrested.

In the events that followed, the Uttar Pradesh government forcibly cremated the body of the woman even as her family was detained in their home by the police, with the aim to stop the incident from becoming a focus of protests.

The case has become emblematic of the caste-based sexual violence faced by Dalit women in the state. As per the latest data released by the National Crime Records Bureau, nearly ten Dalit women are raped every day in the country, with Uttar Pradesh topping the figures.

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