AS Hathras remained out of bounds for outsiders, the political opposition – from the Congress to the Trinamool Congress and the Aam Aadmi Party to the Left parties – on Friday took to the streets criticising the Yogi Adityanath government in Uttar Pradesh and demanding justice for the Dalit teen, who died after she was assaulted and allegedly gangraped by upper caste men.
By evening, the Adityanath government suspended the district magistrate, superintendent of police and some officials.
Congress general secretary in charge of UP Priyanka Gandhi Vadra joined a prayer meeting at a Valmiki temple in New Delhi. A team of Trinamool Congress MPs led by the party’s Rajya Sabha leader Derek O’Brien travelled to Hathras but was prevented from entering the village. O’Brien was pushed and shoved as he and fellow TMC MPs Kakoli Ghosh Dastidar, Pratima Mondal and former MP Mamata Thakur tried to enter the village.
In scenes reminiscent of the protests in 2012, hundreds gathered at Jantar Mantar in the first mass gathering in Delhi after the lockdown. They demanded resignation or removal of Adityanath.
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, who joined the protest along with several Opposition leaders, demanded “strictest action” against the perpetrators and said they must not be “shielded”. Kejriwal also said, “Whoever plays politics in this case, it’s wrong.”
At Jantar Mantar, protesters held candles, placards and posters, and raised slogans against the Adityanath government in UP and the Narendra Modi government at the Centre.
Among Opposition present were CPI(M)’s Sitaram Yechury, CPI’s D Raja and Kanhaiya Kumar, Congress’s Sushmita Dev, Swaraj Abhiyan’s Yogendra Yadav, Gujarat MLA Jignesh Mevani, Bhim Army chief Chandrashekhar Azad and scores of AAP leaders, including Rajendra Pal Gautam, Saurabh Bharadwaj and Atishi. Actor Swara Bhaskar was also present.
Kejriwal said: “For many days there was no FIR on rape, her treatment could not take place properly. Then at night, against Hindu rituals, her body was cremated. There are many such incidents due to which people felt there was an attempt at a cover-up and perpetrators were being shielded. This shouldn’t happen.”
“Let the (victim’s) family be free to meet whomever they want. At such a time they need peace. The behaviour they are being subjected to is not right,” the Delhi CM said, referring to reports that the family was being cordoned off from all sides.
Participating in a prayer meeting, Priyanka lashed out at the UP government: “Despite the atrocity against the girl, she and her family did not receive any aid from the government. Her family was all alone in their fight. Whatever happened against her and her family – we will fight against it. We will put political pressure on the UP government, and every woman of this country should speak up…”
Yogendra Yadav said, “There were multiple crimes here — the rape, murder and then the evidence was destroyed; the body was brunt without the family’s permission.”
Azad said, “The police tampered with evidence. We demand that the case be transferred to CBI.”
Both Kanhaiya Kumar and Sushmita Dev spoke against politicising the crime. “When you compare data from Rajasthan and UP, Congress and BJP, that’s the problem. It’s not about statistics; it’s about how we treat crime against women. It’s not about my rape and your rape – every incident of rape is condemnable…culpability lies with the CM. He must resign,” Dev said.
Citing delayed medical treatment and the victim’s body being burnt without informing the family, AAP leader Atishi said, “Uss bachchi ka balatkaar ek baar nahi hua. Uss bachchi ka balatkaar UP ke prashasan ne baar baar kiya hai (that girl was not raped once. She was raped repeatedly by the UP administration).”
In Pune, NCP chief Sharad Pawar told the media, “The UP government is adopting an extreme posture. They have no value for law…. They should have allowed Rahul Gandhi to go to Hathras…. Whatever happened with them (Rahul and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra) was not appropriate.”
Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut said the behaviour meted out to Rahul was akin to the “gangrape of democracy”.
NCP leader and Maharashtra Deputy CM Ajit Pawar described the murder of the teen as a “shame on humanity”.
— with inputs from ENS, PUNE
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