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‘Rape’ of Dalit woman in Hathras politicized; tapes of media conversation leaked

Uttar Pradesh has made its name in the most unsafe states of India. The rate of rape is increasing at such a pace that some families having daughters have chosen to move out of the state, reports say.

On 14 September 2020, a girl from the Dalit community was allegedly raped by four men of the upper-class in Hathras District of UP. After fighting for 2 weeks she died in a hospital in Delhi. After her death, the victim was forcibly cremated allegedly without the family’s consent. The girl’s brother claimed that no person was arrested in the first 10 days after the incident happened. 

The incident of alleged rape and sexual assault took place when the girl went to the farm to collect fodder for their cattle. Four men from the high caste Thakur caste dragged the girl from her ‘dupatta’ around her neck which resulted in injuring her spinal cord. The four men then allegedly raped the girl.

The girl was left paralyzed with major spinal cord injury and other serious injuries. Doctors said that the girl’s spine was permanently damaged. According to the girl’s mother, they first took their daughter to the Chandpa police station where the senior police officer allegedly refused to accept their complaint and also humiliated them. The victim was initially admitted to Jawaharlal Nehru Medical College and Hospital at Aligarh Muslim University, 15 days before her death. 

As the news of case spread many media channels came to cover the incident. On Friday, a popular media channel India Today issued a statement asking the government to explain how the conversation by one of its Journalist, who was covering the case of Hathras gang rape was leaked online.

The media also questioned the government why the victim’s family was kept under surveillance and what is the legal basis for recording and leaking the telephonic conversation. The conversation was leaked on a pro-government website. The conversation was between the India Today reporter and the victim’s brother. In the clip, the reporter was heard asking for a video of the victim’s father which was shared by Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi on her twitter handle.

In the video, the girl’s father was seen demanding CBI investigation and the case to be monitored by a Supreme Court judge. In the video, the father also said that the police officials were creating pressure on the family and allegedly detained them in their homes while the media was disallowed from meeting them. 

On the other hand, the BJP claimed that the alleged audio showed how the media was misreporting the facts related to the case and were compelling false statements out of the girl’s family. BJP party leader Amit Malviya during a debate on India Today said that the ban on Media entry was imposed because of the channel’s false reporting. He said that if the channel has been banned then the credit goes to the channel only. 

He said “audio clip of your channel has been leaked and it can clearly be heard how your channel was misreporting the facts”. Referring to the autopsy report Malviya also said that no rape has happened with the girl and her family filed a contradictory statement about her death and that is why the case is a matter of fact.

However, the India Today Group has rejected all the allegations and asked the government under what authority the phones were being tapped. The India Today Group also issued a statement regarding the matter. In the statement, they have written that the UP administration has banned the journalist from entering the village and is also not allowing the victim’s family to speak to the media.

India Today also asked the government as to why they have tapped the phones of the victim’s family and why the victim’s family is kept under supervision. “Under what law, the government has tapped their phones” they asked. 

In several areas of UP, people have come to the roads to protest against the Yogi government and the police department. Section 144 has been imposed in Hathras. Hathras SP and 4 other police officers have been suspended over their handling of gang rape-murder case. According to the Hathras Additional Superintendent of Police Prakash Kumar said that in the view of the situation no media person or political leader would be allowed to enter the village till the Special Investigation Team (SIT) completes its investigation.

Another video of the District Magistrate asking the victim’s family members to reconsider their gang rape statement has occurred on social media.  

The UP police administration and the members of Yogi government have claimed based on forensic reports that the woman was not raped as no semen has been found in the victim’s body but a number of legal experts believe that semen doesn’t need to be found for the offense of rape. 

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