Around 500 metres from the village where a 19-year-old Dalit woman was allegedly raped by four upper caste men, hundreds of people from the Thakur community staged a protest on Friday in support of the accused and demanded justice for them.
Beginning around 10 am, the protesters said they discussed the case and aired some concerns about the arrests and the investigation.
One protester, Ojvir Singh Rana, said: “We respect the DM’s orders (on prohibitory orders) but we held a protest to raise our voice against the injustice. One incident has tarnished the image of our community. The police and the authorities do not have enough proof (against the accused). If they are guilty, punish them, but if they are not, please release them.”
Another local resident, Govind Sharma, said: “My friends told me that a mahapanchayat will be held to discuss the case. We sat near a field where the village pradhan and some other locals gave speeches about the accused and their families. We all know that the medical report doesn’t confirm rape. We are being targeted and we don’t want to be called ‘oppressors’ — there is no such situation here.”
Village Pradhan Ram Kumar did not respond to calls and text messages from The Indian Express for a comment.
Rana said, “We respect all communities. I am a farmer and labourer myself. I can understand what the family is going through, but they shouldn’t make allegations against the men and call it ‘caste-based violence.”
Local residents from nearby villages also came in support of the accused and attended the protest.
On Thursday, District Magistrate Praveen Kumar Laxkar had told the media that the village where the woman lived has been sealed due to the SIT investigation and Section 144 imposed in Hathras.
The protesters were removed from the field within an hour and police deployed in the area. Local police officials said there were only a few protesters who gathered on a ground and were dispersed after officers intervened.
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