Former Congress president Rahul Gandhi said on Saturday that no power could silence the voice of the family of the Hathras gang rape victim .
Addressing presspersons after meeting the family at Boolagarhi village, Mr. Gandhi said, “We stand with the family members in their hour of grief and continue to fight against injustice.”
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He said the U.P. CM should understand his responsibility and said the Congress was determined to get justice to the family of the victim.
Mr. Gandhi and party general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, accompanied by senior party leaders K.C. Venugopal, Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury and P.L. Punia, spent almost an hour with the bereaved family.
‘Govt. must answer’
In a tweet late in the evening, Ms. Vadra said the victim’s family had demanded a Supreme Court-monitored judicial inquiry and asked why their daughter’s body had been burnt using petrol without their permission.
The family also wanted the Disrict Magistrate of Hathras to be suspended. Ms. Vadra added that the family had a right to know the truth and the Uttar Pradesh government must answer them.
Family sources said Ms. Vadra had embraced the victim’s mother and wiped her tears. The victim’s father told the Congress delegation that the District Magistrate had threatened them. He also voiced his fears about their security as the relatives of the men accused of the assault are threatening to hold a caste panchayat in the village.
Clash with police
Earlier, the Congress leaders were stopped at Noida’s DND flyover by the Uttar Pradesh police. Hundreds of Congress workers, including at least two dozen party MPs, were present on DND as Ms. Vadra drove to Hathras. Police officials told them that ban orders under Section 144 of the Cr.PC were in place and their visit would be a violation of the Epidemic Act. Additional Commissioner of Police (Law & Order) of Gautam Buddh Nagar, Love Kumar, said the large number of party workers had led to a traffic jam.
“When the Congress leaders persisted with their demand, they were allowed to go to Hathras in a group of five,” Mr. Kumar said, adding that unlike October 1 there was no order to stop political leaders from proceeding to Hathras.
The police decision to permit only five persons to proceed led to confusion among the Congress workers leading to a lathi charge by the U.P. Police to control the situation. Former Bharaich MP Kamal Kishore and Delhi Congress President Anil Choudhary were among those facing police ire.
Ms Vadra then stepped out of her car and caught hold of a policeman’s baton. She could be heard asking the police not to hit party workers. She also explained the situation to the party workers and asked them to return, before driving on. Mr Gandhi was also seen climbing atop an SUV and telling party men to return after the permission was granted.
Denying Ms Vadra was manhandled , Mr Kumar said Ms. Vadra and Mr. Gandhi helped to calm the party workers but some “over-excited” workers broke the barricade and pushed the policemen. “We will take legal action,” he said.
Senior Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge told reporters Mr Gandhi had offered to go alone two days back. “But the UP Police stopped him.” He described the lathi charge as the “dictatorial” attitude of the State government.
Congress spokespersons on Randeep Surjewala said “Mr Adityanath’s lathis and cycle of repression wouldn't be able to suppress Congress and its appeal for justice for the victim”.
Officials meet family
Earlier on Saturday, Additional Chief Secretary (Home) Awanish Awasthi and Hitesh Chandra Awasthi, DGP U.P. met the family of the victim in Boolagarhi and assured strict action against the culprits. Later, at a press conference in Hathras, Mr Awasthi said public representatives would be allowed to visit the Hathras victim's village provided they come in a group of five persons. He said SIT would consider all aspects raised by the family and security in the village would be increased.
Asked on whose order the victim was cremated in the dead of night on September 30, Mr H.C. Awashti said, “It was the decision of the local administration.”
After two days, the media was allowed to enter the village on Saturday. Joint magistrate Prem Prakash Meena said the media was stopped because the SIT investigation was on and four policemen had developed COVID like symptoms.
During the day, the brothers of the victim collected the ashes of their sister from the cremation ground. “We are still not sure whether these are ashes our sister but for the sake of humanity, we have collected them. We will immerse them only after she get justice,” said the younger of the two.
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He said they put up questions to the senior-most officials of the state government, including the role of the district magistrate in the “forcible” cremation of their sister.
DM Praveen Laxkar was however, not present at Hathras. Vineet Jaiswal who took charge as Hathras Superintendent of Police on Saturday accompanied the senior officials.
He said public representatives should be allowed to meet the family, provided they follow rules laid down by the administration during COVID 19. He said public officials were the “face of the system” and should “not step back” from “facing the anger” of the public.