Violence against women. Black and white portrait of scared and desperate woman, focus on the hands in protective gesture

19-year-old rape victim succumbs to her injuries as widespread protests demand justice

On 14th September 2020, a 19-year-old lower caste woman was raped by four men in Hathras, UP. She succumbed to her injuries at Delhi’s Safdarjung hospital on 29th September, a day after she was brought from Aligarh’s Jawaharlal Nehru Medical Hospital. Protests broke out in Hathras after her death with people blocking the main market and sanitation workers from the community refusing to operate. There were protestors outside the hospital as well, shouting, “Hang the rapists”.

On September 14th, the victim had gone to collect fodder from the field when the four men attacked her from behind and dragged her with the dupatta around the neck. She was then allegedly taken to a nearby field where she was raped. The accused then tried to strangulate her but she resisted. The victim suffered multiple fractures, paralysis and a deep cut in her tongue.

The police said that around 10:30 pm that very day, the brother of the victim registered a complaint that a man named Sandeep tried to strangulate his sister. Based on the written complaint the police registered an FIR under IPC sections 307 and ST/SC Act. On 19th September Sandeep was arrested.

The woman was in a critical condition when she was admitted in the hospital and could not give a statement but on 22nd September, she named three people who allegedly gang raped her. Then the police added rape charges to the existing complaint as well. Based on the details, the accused, Luvkush was arrested on 23rd September, Ravi was arrested on 25th September and Ramu was arrested on 26th September. All of them are currently in jail and will be tried in a fast track court.

After the victim passed away, the family was given a monetary compensation of Rs. 10 lakhs and IPC section 302 (punishment for murder) has also been invoked by the police.

The woman was cremated but the family alleged that the police cremated her without their consent. Conflicting reports have emerged with some saying that the family was locked in the house while the cremation was taking place while others claim that the cremation even though without consent, took place in the presence of the women’s father. The whole village seemingly came out to protest against the police allegedly took the body of the victim away forcefully for cremation in the dead of the night.

The Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister, after consulting PM Modi, said that a 3-member, SIT member team will probe the case and submit a report within 7 days. The police have denied that the woman was raped but there was an outage on social media platforms, rife with details of how the rape took place. The police have denied all the details on social media and stood their ground saying that the girl was strangulated only. IG Piyush Mordiya, stood by the police and said that the medical records do not indicate rape. The medical records have been sent to the forensic science lab in Agra for further investigation.  Even the Hathras police is under scrutiny now for various lapses in the investigation.

Since the rape, apart from protests demanding justice in West Bengal, UP and Delhi, the social media platforms have also become a medium for protests. While some social media posts believe the incident to be a caste related atrocity, others have been just demanding justice and standing up for the victim and her family on Instagram, Twitter and other platforms.

Amongst the raging protests, former Supreme Court judge, Markandey Katju, among other prominent personalities, stood up for the case saying he strongly condemns the incident and demands harsh punishments for the perpetrators. In the same post on social media he also said, “If we really want to end or reduce rapes, we have to create a social and economic system in India in which there is no or little unemployment.” According to the former Judge, that India is a country where sex is allowed only after marriage and with the high rates of unemployment a lot of men are not able to get married, denying them sex which is a basic necessity. This left a bitter taste in the mouths of many readers.

On 28th September the Bhim army chief, Chandrashekhar Azad was arrested for protesting at Safdarjung Hospital, against the incident.  60 people were detained outside the UP Bhawan in Delhi for protesting on 30th September. Congress activists also arranged a candle light protest in New Delhi. These protests are slowly spreading to various parts of the country as people want justice for the 19-year-old victim and her family.