Hathras gangrape: SIT set up, but BJP’s Dalit MPs say: Image dented, politically damaging

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Written by Liz Mathew , Avaneesh Mishra | Lucknow, New Delhi | October 1, 2020 2:34:36 am

The funeral pyre of the Hathras victim, hours later. (Express photo: Amil Bhatnagar)

As the UP government set up a Special Investigation Team (SIT) to probe the alleged gangrape of a 19-year-old Dalit woman by four upper caste men in UP’s Hathra, and her death, several of the state’s Dalit MPs from the ruling BJP told The Indian Express that the incident has “dented” the administration’s image and is “politically damaging”.

The MPs, however, blamed the incident on “deep-rooted casteism and corruption in police” while expressing their confidence in the state government.

On Wednesday, following a call from Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath formed a three-member SIT to investigate the incident and asked it to submit a report within seven days.

Facing protests and widespread outrage, the state also said it would set up a fast track court to hear the case. Besides, it announced compensation of Rs 25 lakh for the victim’s family, a government job for a family member, and a house in Hathras city under the State Urban Development Agency.

However, at least four Dalit MPs of the BJP described the police action, including the hurried cremation without involving the victim’s family, as “condemnable” and said that “there should be a proper investigation”.

Kaushambi MP Vinod Kumar Sonkar, who headed the BJP’s SC Morcha till recently, said: “Certainly, the incident has dented the image of the state and the government. It’s politically damaging to us. It’s a loss of face for us. But the state government is trying its best to get justice for the family.”

Sonkar blamed such incidents on a “police system and bureaucracy that have been rooted in corruption and casteism.”

“It’s not an issue that has been created in the last few years — it has been there for some time. In this state, the former SP and BSP governments had distributed posts in the police system and bureaucracy in the name of caste. In fact, some of us even told the Chief Minister that those who still owe allegiance to these parties are defaming the BJP and this government,” the Lok Sabha MP said.

Another Dalit MP, who did not wish to be identified, warned that the incident has the potential to hit the party’s prospects in the Bihar elections starting October 28.

Kaushal Kishore, the Mohanlalganj MP, accused UP Police of “harassing the poor and Dalits”. “They will try and cover up atrocities against them. The government should see that such policemen are punished. But I am confident that this government will take action against the culprits,” Kishore said.

Barabanki MP Upendra Singh Rawat said Dalits in the state are “very upset” about the incident. “The act has to be condemned. It’s not just because it’s a Dalit girl, such incidents should not happen to anyone. I am sure the government will not let anyone go free whether it’s a policeman or someone else,” he said.

“When the victims are Dalits or from backward castes, justice and action get delayed sometimes, because they are weaker. The government will suffer a loss of face if the culprits are not punished,” he said.

Misrikh MP Ashok Kumar Rawat described the police action as “condemnable”. “The culprits should get punished, be it police or anyone. But we should also find out how and why this happened,” he said.

Chief Minister Adityanath, meanwhile, said the SIT was formed after the Prime Minister directed him to ensure “strict action against those responsible”. “The culprits in the Hathras incident will not be let off,” Adityanath posted on Twitter.

The SIT will be headed by Home Secretary Bhagwan Swaroop, with UP Police DIG Chandraprakash and Agra PAC Commandant Poonam as the other members.

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