The Uttar Pradesh police’s forced cremation of the 19-year-old Dalit woman, who died on Tuesday after she was gang-raped allegedly by four upper caste men, in the middle of the night against her family’s wishes has evoked outrage and anger across the nation.
The police’s actions have been described as gross inhumanity, and have led to demands of immediate action against the cops as well as the administration for denying the rape victim dignity even in death, and heaping humiliation and misery on her family after they have already suffered such trauma.
Former Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, who had termed the gang-rape and murder the “class-specific jungle raj" of UP, condemned the manner in which the woman cremated. “A daughter of India is raped, facts are suppressed, and in the end the right to funeral is also taken away from her family. It is abusive and unjust.”
Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra termed the cremation by police and district administration against the wishes of the family as inhuman. “The government did not protect her while she was alive. The government did not provide timely treatment when she was attacked. After the death of the victim, the government took the last rites of the daughter from the family. Gross inhumanity,” she said.
She demanded the resignation of UP chief minister Adityanath, saying that instead of protecting the victim and her family, his government became complicit in depriving her of every single human right, even in death. “You have no moral right to continue as Chief Minister," she tweeted.
@myogiadityanath RESIGN Instead of protecting the victim and her family, your government became complicit in depriving her of every single human right, even in death. You have no moral right to continue as Chief Minister. 3/3
— Priyanka Gandhi Vadra (@priyankagandhi) September 30, 2020
The administration initially issued a plain statement saying that the last rites were performed but disturbing late night visuals from the village, around 200km away from the national capital, were captured by reporters on the ground, who captured the cremation taking place only in presence of cops, relatives throwing themselves on the hood of the ambulance carrying the body and the woman’s mother weeping helplessly after the cremation.
Family members have said the police forcibly performed the last rites last night even though they wanted to bring her body home one last time and cremate her in the morning as per customs.
“The Hathras victim was first raped by some men and then yesterday, she was brutalised by the entire system. The whole episode is very painful," Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal tweeted in Hindi.
On social media, there has been an outpouring of grief and anger from politicians, activists, celebrities and others.
“Even criminals are allowed dignified cremation. Here is a rape victim being cremated by police at 2:30 am without family members. Could this happen if the family was not dalit? This is a matter of national shame. Our own George Floyd moment," Yogendra Yadav tweeted.
Even criminals are allowed dignified cremation. Here is a rape victim being cremated by police at 2:30 am without family members.Could this happen if the family was not dalit?This is a matter of national shame.Our own George Floyd moment.#HathrasHorrorShocksIndia https://t.co/2nyzM2bQ3C— Yogendra Yadav (@_YogendraYadav) September 30, 2020
Prominent poet and lyricist Javed Akhtar, tweeted, “The UP police cremated the body of the rape victim of Hathras at 2.30 in the night without the permission or even the presence of the family. It leaves us with a question. What makes them confident that they will get away with this audacity. Who has given them this assurance”.
The UP police cremated the body of the rape victim of Hathras at 2.,30 in the night without the permission or even the presence of the family . It leaves us with a question . What makes them confident that they will get away with this audacity . Who has given them this assurance— Javed Akhtar (@Javedakhtarjadu) September 30, 2020
Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati her party too condemned the manner in which the woman was cremated.
Producer and screenwriter Kanika Dhillon said the police only acted in this way because it knows it can get away with anything.
They did ths cos they know they can get away with it blatantly! #Hathras #HathrasHorror Thnk u 4reporting @TanushreePande but let’s c how they R allowed 2get away with this? Let’s c how they come together 2fulfil their promise ‘Beti bachao.. ya beti jalao? #DalitLivesMatter https://t.co/tZlq8OzQar— Kanika Dhillon (@KanikaDhillon) September 30, 2020
The UP police was already under scrutiny over alleged lapses throughout the case, and the inexplicable rush in cremation has further added to anger and grief. The police initially registered an attempted murder case but added rape charges only after the woman’s formal statement. On Tuesday, a senior officer said rape had not been confirmed and they were waiting for a forensic report.
All four attackers, upper caste men from the woman’s village, are in jail. They will now also be charged with murder. The woman had suffered multiple fractures, paralysis and a deep gash in her tongue in the assault.