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A year on, Hathras victim’s family awaits justice

A view of the dump outside the Hathras victim’s residence.   | Photo Credit: Anuj Kumar

The posters of gods and goddesses that adorned the walls of the inner courtyard, when this correspondent last visited, were missing. A CRPF jawan was guarding the roof of the two-room house. Another was in the thatch-roofed kitchen, perhaps heating some eatables. Outside, mounds of dung were raising a stench. A year after a Dalit girl was allegedly gang-raped by four men of other caste and left bleeding in the field in the Hathras village, the family of the victim is still struggling to come to terms with the constant gaze of CCTV cameras and the presence of a posse of security men.

 

“It feels frustrating and suffocating. We know we are safe because of them, as the incident has made us even more untouchable than before in the village, but we also want to lead a normal life,” said the victim’s father. Only a Brahmin family, he said, had agreed to till our 3.5 bighas of land and share the produce.

Recalling the gruesome incident, the victim’s elder brother recalled that they found the 19-year-old with severe injuries on the neck and private parts. She was taken to the Jawaharlal Medical College and Hospital in Aligarh. When her condition deteriorated, she was taken to Delhi’s Safdarjung Hospital, where she died on September 29.

The body was taken to the village in an ambulance and ‘forcibly’ cremated around 3.30 a.m. by the police and district officials.

Sandeep (20), Ravi (35), Ramu (26) and Luv kush (23) were arrested.

Taunts and comments

“Nobody visits us, and taunts and comments are passed when we go out for hearing as if I have committed a crime by seeking justice for my daughter,” remarked the father, adding the family never tried to break social rules. “When the SHO visited the scene of the crime, I asked for a medical investigation but he tried to shut me up by raising issues of izzat [dignity] and that it would jeopardise the prospects of getting her married. Despite my daughter’s clear declaration of rape, the administration delayed medical investigation. They didn't want the rape part of the crime to come out. But I persisted…they disapprove of our touch but feel that they could do anything to our daughters.”

 

The elder brother, the father of three girls, lamented he was uncertain about the future of daughters. “Will they be safe when they start going to school. When lewd comments are passed on our lawyer, her car is followed, where do we stand a chance,” he wondered, reeling out similar incidents in Akrabad (Aligarh), Delhi and Mumbai. “Things haven’t changed for women after the incident,” he noted.

His younger brother is more anguished and desperate. “When the posters of gods worn out, we removed them. Anyway, we are not considered Hindus. All of us have lost our jobs. For the last one year, every time I see the urn containing the ashes of my sister, I ask, what we have done to deserve this,” he stated.

The family received ₹ 25 lakh as compensation amount from the U.P. government but the father wondered how long will that last if the case dragged.

A senior CRPF personnel requesting anonymity revealed that he hasn’t guarded a family against a neighbour, living bang in front before. He mentioned it felt odd that the entire village dumped the dung and other waste in front of the victim’s house. “When it rains, it makes life difficult for us as the waste not only emanates foul odour but could also cause infection.”

Two cases registered

Two cases were registered after the girl’s death. While the Allahabad High Court took suo motu notice of the ‘forcible’ cremation, an SC/ST court in Hathras is hearing the rape-murder case.

Expressing satisfaction on the pace of the trial, the victim’s advocate, Seema Kushwaha, hoped that the trial court would deliver the judgment within the next two months. “Another positive development,” she highlighted, was that the Lucknow Bench of the High Court had asked the State government to formulate a standard operating procedure wherein the cremation of a victim of a heinous crime could lead to a law and order situation.

 

She pointed out that the promise of a residence and a job from the government hadn’t been fulfilled. “There is a legal provision for it and it is important in this case as it will help the family to come out of the emotional trauma and reduce the chances of physical harm and threats.” The dying declaration of the victim was a clinching evidence in the case and that the father demanded a medical investigation in writing on September 16 itself, she added.

Family of accused too angry

The family members of the accused are also angry and frustrated . They blame the media for projecting their sons as convicts even before the trial. They asserted it seemed like a case of “honour killing” and described the dying declaration on which the CBI’s charge sheet as a “tutored statement.” “We also want justice for the girl of our village but it doesn’t mean you hang the innocent,” said Rakesh, grandfather of Sandeep.

He alleged that as the local MP belonged to the victim’s caste, the government sided with the family. “Still, I can assure you they would not get even three votes of the victim’s family.”


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Printable version | Oct 19, 2021 2:20:35 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/a-year-on-hathras-victims-family-awaits-justice/article36497786.ece

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