Hathras rerun: UP police 'force' kin to cremate rape victim at night
Uttar Pradesh police allegedly forced the family of a murdered minor girl, whose father claims she was earlier gang-raped, to cremate her under the cover of darkness in Bulandshahr district in an incident bearing similarities with the Hathras atrocity of September 2020.
The murder and cremation of the Bulandshahr teenager occurred on January 21 but became known, along with the gang-rape allegations, only on February 1 after some local people wrote about it on social media.
The police, who say the post-mortem didn’t confirm rape and deny the force had anything to do with the cremation, registered a murder FIR only on February 1.
The first arrests – of the prime accused and an alleged accomplice – were made on Thursday after Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra met the family during a campaign trip to Bulandshahr and spoke about the “almost Hathras-like incident”.
In Hathras, the police had refused to register a case for days after a Dalit girl was allegedly gang-raped and brutalised by four Rajput youths. Later, the Uttar Pradesh police allegedly hijacked the girl’s body from a Delhi hospital and burnt her in her village secretly at night amid the forced presence of some relatives.
While the Bulandshahr girl was an OBC Lodhi, the accused are Brahmins --- a caste unhappy with the Yogi Adityanath government and whom the ruling BJP does not want to upset before the Assembly elections. Bulandshahr votes on February 10.
On Thursday, the girl’s father told reporters the family was waiting for the morning of January 22 --- because it’s against local tradition to cremate the dead in the dark – when “a large team of police and local administration officials suddenly arrived at my home”.
“They used their batons to remove the gathered villagers and forced us to take my daughter’s body to the cremation ground,” he said.
The father said he couldn’t recognise many of the officers, who seemed non-local, implying an operation involving various police stations that suggested a role by higher authorities.
“They shoved me when I resisted and took my daughter’s body to the cremation ground. Some policemen came back to take me and other family members forcibly to the cremation ground,” he said.
He alleged the police had threatened to jail him on the charge of assaulting and killing his daughter if he resisted.
The father said his daughter was 16 and had disappeared from home on January 21. Hours later, he said, he learnt she had been found shot in the neck in another village.
He said a young man from the other village, Saurabh Sharma, used to harass his daughter. He alleged that some residents of the other village had told him that “Saurabh Sharma and three of his friends had grabbed her near a tube well, gang-raped her and shot her dead”.
The father added that he had heard doctors at the local community health centre, where her post-mortem was done, saying among themselves that she had been gang-raped.
Santosh Singh, Bulandshahr senior superintendent of police (SSP), said: “The police were not present during the girl’s cremation. Her post-mortem report didn’t confirm rape.”
Priyanka, the Congress general secretary in charge of the state, told reporters after meeting the family: “It’s an almost Hathras-like incident. The victim’s family was terrorised and forced to burn her in the night.”
She added: “The police have not registered a rape case till now. The family has not got a copy of the FIR.”
Hours later, local circle officer Vandana Sharma said: “We have arrested two accused including Saurabh Sharma. A probe is on and the case has been shifted (from the local police station) to Jahangirabad police station for an impartial inquiry.”
She didn’t explain why the local police would be incapable of an “impartial inquiry”, but sources said both the villages and the area in general were simmering with caste tensions since the murder.
Laxmi Rajput, a Lucknow-based lawyer representing the girl’s family, said: “The police recorded the parents’ statement 11 days after the murder. This is proof that the police wanted to suppress the case.”
SSP Singh claimed “there was an affair between Saurabh Sharma and the girl”, whose villages he said were “15-16km apart”.
“She came to his village on his motorcycle on January 21. There was another young man with them. The youth (Saurabh) shot the girl near a tube well and later slit his own wrist and neck with a blade,” he said.
The youth’s injuries were minor and he was discharged from an Aligarh hospital the next day, police sources said.
Uttar Pradesh has witnessed several high-profile crimes against women under Adityanath’s rule, including the Unnao rape for which a then BJP lawmaker is serving a life term.