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A Year After Hathras Gangrape And “Forced” Cremation, Where Does The Case Stand?

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A year after Hathras gangrape, have things changed? Hathras, what was earlier an innocuous district of the Aligarh division of Uttar Pradesh, became infamous overnight, a year ago. The spine chilling gangrape, murder, hurried cremation and subsequent handling of the case enraged the country and people once again took to the streets for justice. It is a shame that it takes incidences as horrific as a gangrape and murders to shake people’s conscience.

But on the ground how much has changed? Starting from Nirbhaya or Jyoti Singh’s gangrape and murder, yes, it did bring several changes to the law, but even then why couldn’t we stop the horrific sexual assaults of Kathua, Unnao, Delhi Cantt, Mysuru or Saki Naka? Have things changed? We unite to ask for justice but why are we not creating deterrents so that the crime is not committed in the first place?

Our population is huge and rooted in patriarchy, systems are overburdened, we are lacking in creating awareness, thus justice is delayed. Today, one year after the Hathras case this is where the case stands.

Legal Battle

There are two cases going on. The first, is of gangrape and murder, at the special SC/ST court in Hathras district. The second case is at Allahabad High Court under the Lucknow bench. They took suo motu cognizance and are looking into the forced cremation and the administration’s late response to the case.

CBI charge sheet

On 19th December 2020, CBI filed a charge sheet in a special court in Hathras. It has invoked gangrape and murder charges along with charges under the SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act, against four Thakur men, Sandip, Ravi, Ramu and Luvkush. The Bureau rejected several statements by state government officials and the state police that disputed the rape.

The Family

For the girl’s family, their lives have changed forever. The family of the remaining four members now live under the 24-hour protection of CRPF personnel.

The girl’s brother confirmed that there is a serious caste divide in their native village between the Valmiki and Thakur families. The accused reportedly told the deceased girl if she didn’t submit to their ‘demands’, they would shoot her brother dead. The local Dalit leaders reportedly pushed the government officials to take action. An FIR was registered under Section 307 and 356 of the IPC, and relevant sections of the SC/ST Act.

On March 5 2021, during the trial in the Hathras court, a group of people, including lawyers, reportedly threatened the family members of the deceased girl and their counsel in the courtroom.

The Case

On September 14, 2020, a 19-year-old Dalit girl was allegedly gangraped by four Thakur men. She was strangulated with her dupatta. She succumbed to injuries in Delhi’s Safdarjang Hospital two weeks later.

The girl had gone to collect cattle fodder from the farm accompanied by her mother. She was first taken to Aligarh’s J.N. Medical College Hospital before the incident grabbed widespread media attention and she was moved to Delhi where she passed away. Fakhrul Hoda, head of the Neurosurgery Department of Aligarh Medical College said the victim had suffered permanent damage to the spinal cord because of fractures in the second and third vertebrae in the neck region, the Hindu reported.

There was a delay in the arrest of alleged perpetrators and the administration’s role faced critical backlash. The body was not handed over to the girl’s family till late at night. She was then was “forcibly” cremated by the UP police on September 29. It was journalist Tanushree Pandey who first reported the cremation from ground zero.

Tanushree Pandey, female journalist

PC: Twitter

A video emerged in which the Hathras District Magistrate is seen pressuring the family into changing their statement. The news of her alleged cremation and the administration’s alleged unwillingness to aid the family in their quest for justice made nationwide headlines.

However, it remains to be seen how long will it take for the Hathras case to reach a conclusion. Even in case of Nirbhaya, her parents had to wait seven long years for justice to prevail. But the quest doesn’t stop there. India needs to ask, why do we continue to fail our daughters? How many more women in Hathras, or Mumbai or Hyderabad have to suffer for us to take measures that will ensure that women are safe on the streets and within their own homes?