New Delhi, October 2
A massive protest erupted in Delhi on Friday evening as hundreds of civil society activists, students, women and political leaders gathered at Jantar Mantar against the alleged gangrape of a young woman in Hathras district and the UP Government’s response to it.
Wearing masks and raising slogans against the UP administration, they demanded justice for the 19-year-old victim and asked Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath to resign.
The protest was to be held at India Gate initially but had to be shifted to Jantar Mantar owing to the prohibitory orders in place in the Rajpath area.
The protest site has been barricaded by the police to restrict the movement of protesters, an official said.
Besides ground force, senior police officers and paramilitary personnel had been deployed manage the crowd.
Several political leaders, including from the Aam Aadmi Party and the Left, joined the protest.
Most of them said they were outraged over the way UP Police cremated the body of the victim, who died at Delhi’s Safdarjung Hospital, a fortnight after she was allegedly raped by four upper-caste men.
The woman’s family has alleged that the police forced them to conduct the last rites in the dead of the night. But local police officers have said the cremation was carried out “as per the wishes of the family”.
“What is happening in UP is goondaraj,” lawyer-activist Prashant Bhushan said.
“The police have surrounded the village, are not allowing opposition leaders and mediapersons to enter it and have taken away the mobile phones of the family members of the victim.”
Bollywood actor Swara Bhaskar, Bhim Army chief Chandrasekhar Azad, AAP MLA Saurabh Bhardwaj, Left leaders Prakash Karat and Sitaram Yechury also attended the protest.
Swaraj India leader Yogendra Yadav said the Hathras incident “brings out the complete breakdown of anything called rule of law”.
“It’s not just that a rape happened, or that she was killed which is worse. There is a political patronage right from the beginning… The Uttar Pradesh administration is out there to ensure that this news doesn’t come out.”
Yadav alleged that the family was denied even a decent cremation for the victim, which even criminals are entitled to.
Calling what happened a “shutdown of democracy”, he said, “The UP government has no basis to exist anymore”.
Azad demanded that a fast-track court be set up to hear the case daily.
“The culprits should be punished as soon as possible so that others get scared before committing such crimes. We will go to Hathras and till the time the matter doesn’t come to Delhi, there is no chance of getting justice,” he said.
Bhaskar said people from different groups have gathered at Jantar Mantar, which shows how enraged people are. “It is time we start fighting against the rape epidemic. Today, we are standing against it here and we have to win,” she added.
Left leaders questioned the silence of the Central Government over the issue.
“The silence of the central government and the top leadership of the BJP on such a heinous crime and the UP government’s response thereafter speaks volumes about the authoritarian and anti-democratic ‘chehra’, ‘chaal’, ‘charitra’, and ‘chintan’ of the ruling party,” Yechury said.
“The Uttar Pradesh government has no right to stay in power. Our demand is that justice should be served,” he said.
Karat said the lawlessness in Uttar Pradesh is “a caste code in operation, not the Constitution of India”.
“We fought for the primacy of rape victim’s statement in law, but now, they have brought a false report to save the criminals, saying there was no rape. I want to ask Modiji. Is this your culture? Your UP government has put the family under house arrest. You are punishing them and not the government responsible for her death,” she said.
“Is it your culture not to allow people to console the grieving family? Shame on you Modiji. Your government denied her proper medical attention, your government did not allow her family to give her a dignified funeral, and now, you are denying them solace. The UP chief minister should be sacked,” Karat added. PTI