HATHRAS/UP: Before daybreak and in an inexplicable hurry, the 19-year-old Dalit girl, who had died in Delhi’s
on Tuesday 15 days after being tortured and gang-raped allegedly by four upper caste men in her village, was cremated by
at 2.40am on Wednesday. Her relatives said they never consented; police and
said they did.
“Police wanted us to cremate her body without any delay,” the girl’s brother told TOI. Her sister-in-law said, “Not a single family member was present at the cremation (in the middle of a field in the village). We were all home, scared of being beaten up by police.” However, Hathras DM Praveen K Laxkar said “permission (to cremate her) had been taken from the family”.
As outrage mounted, Yogi Adityanath tweeted that PM Narendra Modi had asked him to ensure strict action against the accused. The UP CM spoke to the family, promising them Rs 25 lakh in compensation, a government job for a family member as a school teacher, a house, and that the trial would be taken up in a fast-track court.
Around 12.50am, a black car rode into
, the girl’s village in UP, an ambulance behind it. Her father and cousin were in the car and a police officer in the ambulance from Safdarjung Hospital. DM Laxkar said the ambulance was parked outside her house. District officials and police reached the house to negotiate with the family. In a video that has been circulating, the family can be seen arguing that they would want to follow funerary rituals, to which a police officer responds by saying that rituals “should adapt”.
“An administration official came home and told us that someone from the family should go with him to cremate her. We didn’t go, assuming they wouldn’t cremate her without anyone from the family. Sometime later, people from the media came asking us what we would do now that she had been cremated. That’s when we got to know,” the girl’s sister-in-law told TOI. Those present at the site later said the police had cordoned off the area where she was cremated.
The DM dismissed that. “There was no pressure. Permission had been taken from the family,” Laxkar said. He did not answer questions about the time chosen. He did not deny, however, that family members were absent. Police, later in the day, shared a video that shows a person standing next to the pyre, implying family was present. The girl’s sister-in-law refuted that.
When the family did get to know, they said, they rushed there to find a burning pyre in the middle of the fields. Her mother broke down before the ambulance, locals turned irate and chaos ensued. “All I wanted was to see her off the right way. She will never come back,” the inconsolable mother told TOI in the morning. By then, the village had turned into a fortress with heavy security.
When Hathras MP Rajveer Singh Diler got to the village to meet the family in the afternoon, he was driven away with slogans of “go back”. The BJP MP admitted that the "clandestine cremation" was wrong: “I will speak to the chief minister and inform him about police behaviour. Action will be taken against them.”
Outrage over what was seen as a continuing tale of horror led to the opposition demanding the CM’s resignation. Just outside the village, in Hathras town, police lathicharged Dalit protesters who were allegedly pelting stones and pulling down store shutters. Over the course of the day, protests were reported from across the country.
The forensic report, meanwhile, is not in yet. The medical report, based on an examination a week after she had been hospitalised, had not found evidence of rape given the long time that had passed. The rape, officially, has not been confirmed two weeks since she was brutalised.