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Hathras/Lucknow, Sep 30 (PTI) The 19-year-old Dalit woman, whose death in a Delhi hospital two weeks after she was brutally gangraped led to nationwide outrage, was cremated in the dead of the night early Wednesday with family members alleging they were forced by police to hurriedly conduct the last rites.
“The cremation was done around 2.30-3 in the morning," her father told PTI, a day after his daughter, who suffered critical injuries when she was allegedly gangraped and tortured by four upper caste men, gave up the battle for life.
As political leaders and activists voiced their protest on social media and other platforms over the manner in which the funeral was conducted near the woman’s home in Hathras, a local police officer said it was carried out “as per the wishes of the family”.
In the moments preceding the cremation of his sister, the teen's brother told PTI from his home, "Police have forcibly taken the body and my father along with them for cremation. When my father reached Hathras (from New Delhi), he was immediately taken (to the crematorium) by the police."
Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke with Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and said strict action should be taken against the culprits, according to the Chief Minister's Office.
The chief minister also constituted a three-member SIT to probe the case and asked that the trial be conducted in a fast track court. The SIT has been asked to submit its report in seven days, an official said.
Recalling the horrors of the Nirbhaya case, the Dalit teen was allegedly sexually assaulted by four men on September 14 and referred on Monday to the Safdarjung Hospital in Delhi with spinal injuries, paralysis and cuts in her tongue. She died around 3 am on Tuesday.
The men alleged to be involved in the crime are under arrest and will now face charges under Section 302 (murder) of the Indian Penal Code, according to Hathras Superintendent of Police Vikrant Vir.
The family left Safdarjung Hospital in Delhi on Tuesday night amid heavy police deployment and reached their village in Hathras, about 180 km from the national capital, after the body of the young woman, claimed a family member.
Another relative said 30 to 40 people accompanied the woman's father to the crematorium.
Senior police and administration officials were also present at the crematorium in the middle of the night, an official said.
Purported visuals from the site showed flames from what appeared to be a pyre lighting up the sky and heavy police presence with some personnel in anti-riot gear keeping the media at bay. Anguished cries from family members broke the silence of the night.
"We are unable to understand, what they want... what kind of politics is this. They are giving random statements like the woman has not been raped! We don't know what they want," said a relative who was at home with the grieving family. "They are doing all this to hush up the case."
While scores of Left and Congress leaders were detained when they staged protests against the Yogi Adityanath government near the UP Bhawan in Delhi, opposition leaders questioned the circumstances and the timing of the funeral.
"I was on the phone with the Hathras victim's father when he was informed that his daughter had passed away. I heard him cry out in despair," said Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra.
Tagging Adityanath in a tweet, she added, "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."
Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati said her party strongly condemns the “wrong attitude” of the police.
"The cremation of Hathras gang-rape victim by the Uttar Pradesh Police without handing over the body to the family or without their consent and in their absence in the dead of night is raising doubts and resentment,” she said, asking for the Supreme Court to take cognisance of the case.
Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav alleged that the cremation was done in the middle of the night to erase evidence.
"In the rape-murder of Hathras daughter, conducting her last rites by police in the middle of the night without the consent of the family is against rituals… It is the most condemnable act… The BJP government has committed a sin and crime by doing so," he said on Twitter.
In a press statement, the Politburo of the ÇPI(M) said the "barbaric caste based rape" is "reflective of the utter lawlessness" in the northern state.
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said the young woman was first “raped by some beasts” and then the “entire system”.
in Mumbai, Maharashtra NCP chief Jayant Patil termed the "behaviour" of the UP Police "inhuman and unfortunate".
Women’s rights activists added their voice to the chorus of condemnation and said the teen was robbed of dignity even in death.
"When the family found her and she was taken to the police station, the police said she is trying to trap people and then she was hospitalised and not kept in a ICU for six days and then on her death the police blamed the victim's family and they are denying this Dalit family and victim dignity even in death and mourning," said Kavita Krishnan, secretary of the All India Progressive Women's Association,
Yogita Bhayana, who heads the group People Against Rape in India (PARI), described the incident as “something beyond human rights violation".
"It is the newest low. Even in the Nirbhaya case there was nothing like this. None of the cases this happened. The family deserves an answer. They can only do this to a Dalit family..they knew the caste would not retaliate so they did this," she said.
Rights activist Shamina Shafiq pointed out that Hindu rituals do not allow for cremations after sunset.
She, too, made comparisons with the Nirbhaya case and said the prime minister Manmohan Singh and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi went to the airport to receive her body when it came from Singapore. She was also airlifted to Singapore so her life could be saved.
"When this (Hathras) girl was gangraped why was she not airlifted to AIIMS… It is happening because she is a Dalit girl. Just because there are no elections in UP and she was a Dalit girl this happened," she said.
The National Commission for Women said it will seek an explanation from the
"In UP Gang-Rape Tragedy, 2.30 am Cremation By Cops, Family was Kept Out. @NCWIndia condemn it strongly. Why the family wasn't allowed in Cremation? Why at night?@Uppolice @hathraspolice," said NCW chief Rekha Sharma tweeted.
As the outrage grew, associates of Bhim Army chief Chandrashekhar Azad and its Delhi unit head Himanshu Balmiki alleged that the two have been missing since 10 pm on Tuesday and had been detained by UP Police while they were on their way to Hathras, accompanying the family.
There was no immediate confirmation from the police on this matter. PTI KIS BJ SAB UZM VIT BUN ENM MIN MIN