October 4 saw a large gathering of upper caste men in Hathras in support of persons accused in the gang rape and murder of a Dalit woman even as police lathi-charged Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) vice-president Jayant Chaudhary and his associates while they were on their way to meet the family of the victim.
“The arrogant Yogi government wants to suppress the Opposition voice through police lathis,” the RLD said in a tweet sharing visuals showing the sudden police lathi charge on Mr. Chaudhary and his team even as he was talking to the media. Police were seen severely beating the RLD workers as they tried to shield Mr. Chaudhary.
Tweeting about his ordeal, Mr. Chaudhary said if the government had the right to use lathis, he had the right to stand by his people. “Use lathis as much as you can, our resolve will only get stronger,” Mr. Chaudhary said.
Hathras police said the RLD workers had broken the police barriers and pushed and shoved police personnel on duty, and to bring the situation under control, “light force” was used against the agitated crowd.
Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra tweeted in support of Mr. Chaudhary, and said the police action against the RLD leader was condemnable.
BSP chief Mayawati and Ms. Vadra also demanded action against the District Magistrate of Hathras and a probe into his role in the entire incident which culminated in the rushed late night cremation of the victim by the police, allegedly without permission from her family.
In a massive show of strength, men from the dominant caste gathered at the residence of a former BJP MLA Rajvir Singh Pehalvan amid heavy police deployment, some 6 km from the victim’s village Bulagarhi. The meeting was described as a thanksgiving meeting after Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath recommended a CBI probe into the case. Mr. Pahalwan said since the gathering was being held in his private space, it did not amount to violation of Section 144 which has been imposed on the area due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Mr. Pehalvan’s son, Manveer Singh, one of the organiser’s of the meeting, said the men had gathered in support of the accused. He said two of the accused were innocent, citing the fact that they were picked up from their homes.
“If they were guilty would they not try to run,” Mr. Singh said in their defence, speaking to a news channel.
He also demanded that a police case be lodged against the family of the victim.
A delegation led by Samajwadi Party leader Dharmendra Yadav met the family of the victim and demanded that, as per the wishes of the kin, the case be probed by a sitting judge of the Supreme Court.
“The administration is being made a scapegoat. The people actually responsible are sitting in Lucknow,” Mr. Yadav said.
Ms. Mayawati said the Uttar Pradesh government's “mysterious silence” on the allegations of intimidation levelled against the Hathras District Magistrate by the family of the rape victim was “sad and worrisome”. Though the government has agreed to a CBI probe, how can an impartial probe be conducted with the DM still posted there, asked the BSP chief.
Ms. Vadra, who visited the victim’s family with Rahul Gandhi and other Congress leaders on October 3, also targetted Mr. Laxkar and asked who was protecting him. She demanded that he be immediately removed and his role in the episode investigated. “According to the aggrieved family of Hathras, the DM was the one who misbehaved the most with them,” she said.
The U.P. government late on October 2 suspended Hathras SP Vikrant Vir and four other policemen after the first report of the Special Investigation Team probing the incident had found negligence on their part. Mr. Adityanath then on October 3 recommended a CBI probe .
Ms. Vadra questioned why was the government SIT probe still on even after a CBI probe was recommended by CM, while the victim’s family had demanded a judicial probe.