Rajat Sharma

Hathras rape: Let judiciary unravel the truth

akb0409 2It is a travesty of democracy that the Hathras administration has sealed the entire district and has clamped prohibitory orders to prevent entry of outsiders and gatherings of people in the wake of the forced cremation of the 19-year-old Dalit teenager after the heinous gangrape and torture by four youths. Entry of mediapersons into the district has been banned, the borders of the district have been sealed. The girl’s village has been turned into a fortress by the police. “The decision was taken to maintain law and order”, said the Inspector General of Police Piyush Mordia.

The Lucknow bench of Allahabad High Court consisting of Justice Rajan Roy and Justice Jaspreet Singh on Thursday took suo motu cognizance of the matter and summoned the Principal Secretary(Home), Director General of Police, Additional DGP and the DM and SP of Hathras district to be present in court on October 12. The family members of the victim have also been directed to present in court.

The High Court observed that the incidents “have shocked our conscience… we are inclined to examine whether there was gross violation of fundamental rights of the victim and her family members, whether the state authorities acted oppressively, highhandedly and illegally to violate such rights, and if it is found to be so, then this would be a case where accountability will not only be fixed, but for future guidance, stern action will be required.”

The High Court, in its order, referred to my news show ‘Aaj Ki Baat’, in which I had shown video and audio relating to how police and district administration misbehaved with the family members and carried out forced cremation of the victim.

The High Court said, “In this very context we may also refer to an electronic media program shown on India TV channel by the name “Aaj Ki Baat” where the anchor Shri Rajat Sharma dwelled on the issue of alleged forcible cremation of the deceased victim at length and in the said program videos which were recorded on the spot at the time the deceased victim’s body arrived in the village and her cremation indicating the forcible cremation without the family members being allowed to participate, that too, in the midst of the night contrary to the religious practices followed by the family, have been shown. The family members were shown as stating that cremation is not carried out after sunset and before day break and that the body of the deceased should be taken to their home, but this was not done.

“The matter before us, of which we have taken suo motu cognizance is of immense public importance and public interest as it involves allegation of high handedness by the State Authorities resulting in violation of the basic human and fundamental rights not only of the deceased victim but also of her family members.”

The High Court further said, “As it is, the deceased victim was treated with extreme brutality by the perpetrators of the crime and what is alleged to have happened thereafter, if true, amounts to perpetuating the misery of the family and rubbing salt in their wounds….We would like to examine whether the economic and social status of the deceased’s family has been taken advantage of by the state authorities to oppress and deprive them of their Constitutional rights.”

On Thursday night, I showed in “Aaj Ki Baat” a video in which the Hathras DM Praveen Kumar Laxkar was indirectly threatening the family by saying: “Do not finish your credibility .. these media people, some left today and tomorrow more will leave. Only we will be here with you, OK? It is up to you whether you want to change your statement or not. We can also change.” This video, taken on a cellphone, immediately went viral.

In another video, the victim’s sister-in-law, in veil, was heard saying: “They are putting pressure on us. They are saying that if our daughter had died of coronavirus, would she have received compensation? They are saying that the case will be rafaa-dafaa (dispose of). We are getting threats, our father is also getting threats.”

It is clear that the DM and SP of Hathras are more interested in cover-up rather than ensuring justice to the family. After watching the DM giving indirect threats, can any poor family expect truth, justice and fairness from such officials? To top it all, the DM has issued orders banning entry of mediapersons into the district. Clearly, the UP police is trying to suppress the truth by giving veiled threats to the media.

The Additional DGP (Law and Order) Prashant Kumar on Thursday said, “as per the Forensic Science Lab report, no sperm or spermatozoa was found in the viscera sample of the victim. There is no evidence of rape, according to this report. Despite statements by officials, some wrong information was circulated in the media. There is an attempt to create caste tensions and cause social disharmony. Some people are putting out twisted facts in the media. There is also an attempt to defame the (police) department and we will initiate action against such persons who do so.”

According to experts, there were lapses in the medical examination procedure that took place eight days after the alleged rape. It clearly violates national and international guidelines that say that scrutiny of the victim’s private parts must be done at the earliest in rape cases.

About the threat to take action against the media, I want to say here categorically that we have never been afraid, nor shall we be afraid in speaking out the truth. In cases where a daughter needs justice and voice has to be raised against injustice, I shall always stand up and raise my voice from the forefront. For the last three days, the voice of the daughter has been ringing in my ears in which she has been saying that she was working in the field when Sandeep came, tried to strangulate and assault her.

The voice of her father continues to ring in my ears, when he literally begs before the DM with folded hands, saying “Saheb, please wait till morning, please allow us to take our daughter’s body inside our doorstep. Cremation is never done at night, we will do it in the morning.”

The voice of her mother still rings in my ears, in which she is saying “we want to put ‘haldi’ (turmeric) on our daughter’s hands before saying goodbye to her”, but the DM’s voice says “no more wait. Cremation shall be done now, at night.”

Imagine, the body of a daughter lying in front of the house and the parents and family members are unable to have a last look at her. The family members are locked inside their house, even as the daughter’s body is cremated in the dead of the night.

Imagine the family’s trauma, and when they speak to the media, the DM comes to their home and tells them bluntly that the media will leave soon and “it is us with whom you will have to deal with”. The duration of the DM’s voice is hardly 13-14 seconds but that summarizes the tone and intent of the administration. This 14-second video is enough for any sane person to imagine the travails that the girl’s family must have gone through for 17 days after that horrific incident.

Listening to the Additional DGP’s remarks, I feel as if these senior police officers have been trained throughout their life never to serve, but to harass the common man. Their remarks clearly display that they have nothing to do with truth, and they have refined the act of lying into a fine art. And when their lies comes unstuck, they display the power of their uniform, they subdue common people with their lathis, and to those who try to ventilate the voice of the common people, they issue veiled threats of taking legal action.

I still want the UP police to exert all its energy and give justice to the teenager, instead of resorting to oppression, cover-up and threats to media. Every daughter in India today is asking, how long should we continue to live in fear? Instead of suppressing facts and truth, the police must come forward and give courage to our daughters. Let the whole truth come out.

But if the police persists with its attitude of suppressing the truth, stifling the voice of the victims, indulging in a litany of lies, and continuing with the intention of doing ‘rafaa-dafaa’ (dispose of) in this case, which daughter will gather courage to go the police and file complaint of sexual assault? Which parents will get the courage to go the police to seek justice? Should they remain silent and continue to live in trauma?

When the Nirbhaya incident happened, the entire nation stood up as one and voiced its outrage. Laws relating to sexual assault were made stringent. A sense of security returned in the minds of women who thought that they would get quick justice whenever they are subjected to assault. In the Nirbhaya case itself, it took seven years for the rapists to be hanged because of the tortuous legal process.

Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath has promised to get the SIT report in Hathras case within 7 days, but I want to tell him again that the rapists of Hathras must get the most stringent punishment within the shortest possible time frame. If the UP government succeeds in doing that, it will create a sense of fear in the minds of all rapists. Every rapist must know that he could be hanged for his despicable act. So long as there is no fear of law in the minds of such criminals, it will be difficult to prevent incidents of rape.

Finally, I want to salute our judiciary for taking quick suo motu cognizance of the Hathras case and summoning the senior UP officials to come to court with facts. The common man on the street respects our judges. Our judiciary commands respect throughout the world. The Lucknow bench High Court order, that I mentioned in the beginning, clearly indicates that our judges have realized the trauma through which the victim and her family must have gone through, and the learned judges have understood how police and administration were trying to do a hasty cover-up by carrying out forced cremation at night.

I have full confidence in our judiciary and hope that the girl’s family will get justice, at the earliest. Police must not be allowed to throttle the voice of the poor and the weak. The only sad point is that the police managed to cremate the body, removing most of the vital traces of evidence that could have hanged the rapists. Only the ashes remain, and it is on these ashes that a full-scale political tug-of-war has been unleashed.

Comments are closed.