The Uttar Pradesh Police cited forensic reports on Thursday to deny that the 19-year-old Dalit woman, whose death and forced cremation sparked nationwide outrage, was raped, contradicting statements by the victim and her mother.
Additional director general (ADG) of UP police, Prashant Kumar, said forensic examination revealed that the woman, who succumbed to her injuries at Delhi’s Safdarjung hospital on Tuesday, was not raped.
WATCH | Hathras horror: UP cop cites forensic report, says no rape
“The samples did not have sperm and thus makes it clear that no rape or gang rape took place with the girl,” he said. Hathras district magistrate Praveen Kumar also denied gang-rape charges.
Experts pointed to lapses in the medical examination procedure, which occurred eight days after the alleged rape, and said it violated national and international guidelines that say the scrutiny must be done at the earliest in cases of sexual assault.
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“For India, guidelines laid down by the Union ministry of health and family welfare say the medical examination must happen within four days of the assault. However, internationally, countries also collect samples up to seven days. After seven days, chances are usually bleak of finding any evidence of consequence,” said a senior forensic expert from a government hospital on condition of anonymity.
Activists said the rape allegations notwithstanding, the murder of a young Dalit woman needed to be strictly punished. “The death of the girl points to the impunity enjoyed by the Thakur caste in the region. The strictest punishment is needed in this heinous case,” said Sumedha Boudh of the Rashtriya Dalit Mahila Adhikar Andolan.
The woman, who hailed from the Valmiki caste, was allegedly gang-raped by four men from the Thakur caste on September 14. She was first moved to the district hospital in Aligarh, where her statement was recorded on September 22, and finally shifted to Delhi on September 28.
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She succumbed to her injuries on Tuesday, triggering protests by Dalit groups in Delhi and elsewhere in the country.
In the early hours of Wednesday, police drove the victim’s body and family back to Hathras, where the woman was forcibly cremated at 2.30am, sparking anger and allegations from opposition parties that the authorities were trying to bury evidence.
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On Thursday, Safdarjung hospital issued the woman’s death summary and autopsy report, which mentioned strangulation, cervical injuries, sepsis and cardiopulmonary arrest as the final diagnosis. The private parts showed healed tears and wounds, said the postmortem report.
Citing a report by Agra’s Forensic Sciences Laboratory, Kumar said some people misrepresented the facts to disturb social harmony and create caste violence. “Police took immediate action in the case and now we will identify those who tried to disturb social harmony and law and order,” he said.
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Kumar said the woman in her first statement to police didn’t mention rape initially. The case FIR filed at Chandpa police station on September 14 also initially mentioned attempt to murder, and sections concerning rape were added eight days later. On Thursday, unverified videos showing the mother and the daughter making these statements did the rounds as the battle of narratives heated up.
But the victim’s family pointed to statements by the woman in hospital and her mother that alleged rape.
In a declaration recorded before the magistrate on September 22, the woman named all four men -- Sandip Singh, Ramu Singh, Ravi Singh and Lavkush Singh, who have been arrested – and said she was raped by them. “She said she was afraid to leave the house because she was harassed for six months by the men,” said a person who was present when the statement was being recorded.
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The statement of the mother, also recorded at the same time, mentioned that the upper-caste families had been hostile to them for years. The victim’s grandfather had, in 2001, filed cases against the families of Ramu and Sandip of criminal intimidation, hurt and under the SC/ST Atrocities Act. That case was settled in 2015.
These declarations, experts said, should be treated by police as important pieces of evidence. “The dying declaration is the most important piece of statement. Such a statement made in front of a magistrate is enough to land a person in jail for life,” said former UP director general of police Vikram Singh.
Lucknow-based legal expert Rohit Kant said when the woman alleged rape in her statement before death, then all FSL and postmortem reports became irrelevant. “The victim’s word should be given priority,” he said.
At the village, a three-member special investigation team visited the family and questioned them while authorities imposed prohibitory orders and barricaded all entry points.
Earlier in the day, local police said three constables on duty in the village had displayed Covid-like symptoms and that the entire area may be categorised as a containment zone (something that would effectively make it off limits to visitors) but by evening the Hathras chief medical officer said no such zone had been set up at the spot.