A fact-finding report by the People’s Union of Civil Liberties (UP) on the Hathras gangrape and murder was released in Lucknow today.
The report paints the picture of Bulgadi (the village where the incident happened) as a caste-ravaged, divided habitation. In its population of 400, there are just four Valmiki families. This is the caste to which the deceased belonged.
The family told the team that it had felt insecure when the state police had guarded its home, as its members would eat at the homes of the Thakurs in the village. It is the same caste to which the accused belong. However, now that the CRPF was stationed there, they felt safe. The deceased’s father is scared about what would happen to his two sons when the security is removed. “We clean drains. Our daughter had an unclean death,” said the father.
Nineteen years ago, the deceased’s grandfather was grievously attacked by members of the upper castes and after many years of threats and overtures, the victim’s family was forced to compromise. Thus, the reluctance to have faith in the judicial process for any fairness.
Bulgadi remains divided on caste lines, and most of its residents back the Thakurs.
No action has so far been taken by the state government to make good on its promise of a job for the deceased’s brother, though a cheque of Rs 25 lakh has been deposited in the family’s account.
The victim’s family is landless. In addition to working as farm labourers, they keep pigs, goats and buffaloes. Among themselves, the accused’s family holds 60-70 beegha of land.
The family of the victim has also expressed its dissatisfaction at the moving of their daughter to Delhi’s Safdarjung Hospital. They feel that it could have been a conspiracy as the girl was getting better at the Jawaharlal Nehru Medical College in Aligarh.
The victim’s mother said that on the day of the incident the mother and daughter were cutting fodder some distance from each other. When the mother made her way back to her daughter and did not spot her, she assumed the girl would have gone home to drink water. As she continued to walk home she saw her daughter’s slippers and then her partially clothed body. There was a gnash on her neck, while her hands and legs were frozen. Her eyes were bloodshot and she was clenching her tongue between her teeth. The mother shouted and requested the other women on the fields to call out for her son.
The three then hopped on to a motorcycle and made it to the Chandpa police station. There, two women police constables were deputed to take the survivor to the district hospital in an auto. Here, after first aid, the survivor was referred to Aligarh - a journey which the family made without any police help.
At Aligarh, the victim was first admitted to the general ward but given the grave nature of her injuries, she was put in the intensive care unit. An important point of difference that emerges from the family’s records and that of the police here is that the family claims in a couple of days the survivor had recovered enough to be able to speak and ask for tea and biscuits. She gave the name of four accused, and her brother went to the office of the Hathras SP and gave an application containing the same information. He was not given a receipt of the application and the police only assured him that action would be taken.
On September 22, the survivor gave her statement before the magistrate (and this was to become her dying declaration). The charge of gang-rape was added after this statement.
The report also points out that there was no presence of semen. This was because the medico-legal examination was conducted eight days after the incident when semen does not survive beyond 90 hours.
The report points to a number of gaps in the police investigation. Except departmental action, no action has been taken against the erring policemen (for instance, the station in-charge of Chandpa). No investigation has been conducted. Despite evidence to the contrary, the ADG Law and Order went on record to say that there had been no rape. One of the accused – Sandeep – who was named by the victim, was allowed to roam free till six days after the incident.
Even the basics of evidence collection were not followed. The clothes worn by the victim at the time of the incident were not seized. No family member, except the father, was allowed to see the victim’s face. The public gathered at the site of the cremation was threatened with firing.
The report makes a number of suggestions such as drawing from the Nirbhaya Fund to re-settle the family, immediate arrangement of a government job to a member of the family, and criminal investigation against such policemen who either did not act on time or intimidated the family.