The Hathras case has turned into a great political ruckus with the Congress party looking to use the tragedy as a platform to launch the career of Priyanka Gandhi and a pliant media compliant with their interests. Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh Yogi Adityanath has ordered a CBI inquiry into the matter with numerous facets emerging to the story.
The crux of the allegations is that on the 14th of September, a 19 year old Dalit girl from the Bulgadhi village in Hathras was gang-raped by four men belonging to ‘Upper Caste’. The girl passed away a fortnight later and it was alleged that the body of the victim was cremated without the family’s approval on the intervening night between the 29th and 30th of September.
Since then, political parties of all hues have jumped into the fray and the conduct of the media has also been extremely questionable. Thus, it is of paramount importance that a timeline of events is established so that a clear picture of the entire episode emerges before us. In this report, we shall seek to establish a comprehensive timeline of the events that transpired in the Hathras case. Furthermore, the report shall focus strictly on events related to the case and would avoid the politics that has been played over it unless it is strictly relevant to the case at hand.
15th September: The first Hathras Case report emerges in Jagran
The matter was reported for the first time in Hindi daily Jagran as per the information we have been able to gather. The emphasis on the report, interestingly, was not on the caste of the perpetrators but a family feud between that of the accused and the victim. The report states that the victim was gathering fodder for animals with her mother when the accused, only a single youth, due to a history of bad blood, set himself upon the victim, dragged her away and attempted to strangulate her to death.
According to the report, the victim created a commotion due to which the accused fled the scene. The brother of the victim registered a case against the accused. The report that was published in Jagran does not mention any sexual assault on the victim. It even identifies the victim by name, which is not revealed in case of sex crimes. The accused was identified as Sandeep. The report also mentions that the victim was accompanied to the Chandpa police station by her relatives.
The Police referred her to the district hospital where her condition worsened following which she was referred to Aligarh. Inspector Chandpa PS Deepak Sharma said that a longstanding family feud existed between the two sides and there was also a case ongoing in the Courts. A case was registered and it was assured that the accused would be arrested soon. It is pertinent to note here that the report does not mention rape anywhere and the number of accused stood at one.
The medical report recorded by the Jawaharlal Nehru Medical College at the Aligarh Muslim University, Aligarh on the 14th of September notes that the attendant of the victim had alleged neck injuries due to strangulation. The general examination noted that the “patient is conscious, oriented to time, place and person at the time of examination.” The patient history recorded on the 14th also only mentioned strangulation and one perpetrator. Hence, it is safe to assume that on the 14th, the victim or the family did not tell the doctors that the girl was allegedly sexually abused.
19th September-22nd September: Allegations of sex crimes emerge
A Jagran report published on the 3rd October asserted that a senior Congress leader in Uttar Pradesh met the victim on the 19th of September following which allegation of eve-teasing were added to the list of charges by the victim. The report further stated it was on the 22nd of September, eight days after the incident had occurred, that allegations of rape emerged for the first time and three additional names were added to the list of accused.
The report also noted that the Congress leader, one Shyoraj Jivan, met the family of the victim after meeting her following which the narrative around the incident started shifting. A statement by the Congress leader was also reported to have been going viral which says, ‘Our daughter has saved her honour but the sinners have cut her tongue, broken her spine.’
The report says that the allegations of eve-teasing and rape was added after the matter was politicised. And the police consequently added relevant sections to the case and arrested the four accused. It was also noted that the initial complaint related to the matter filed by the brother mentioned no allegations of rape, consistent with 15th September report published by Jagran.
23rd September: Caste enters the picture
The 15th September Jagran report noted that the crime was sparked off by a longstanding family feud and emphasis was not on caste. All of that was set to change, however, when Times of India published a report where it was sought to be highlighted that a 19-year old Dalit girl was raped by four ‘Upper Caste’ men.
The ToI report stated, “A 19-year-old Dalit girl was allegedly gangraped by four upper caste men in UP’s Hathras who also tried to strangulate her which left her fighting for her life in the intensive care unit (ICU) for days.” The report also noted that the gang-rape charges were added after the girl’s statement on the 22nd of September and three more individuals were added to the list of accused based on the same statement.
The report stated further, “On Tuesday after the girl’s statement was recorded, gang rape charges were added to the FIR and three more people were booked, said Hathras SP Vikrant Vir. “One more accused has been held and others, too, will be arrested soon,” he told TOI.” It added, “Additional SP Prakash Kumar said the girl’s statement under section 161 of CrPC was not recorded earlier by the investigation officer as the girl had been in the ICU after she was referred to Jawaharlal Nehru Medical College in Aligarh from Hathras district hospital.”
Most significantly, the report stated that the girl was out of danger when she gave her statement to the Police on the 22nd of September although she was still admitted in the ICU. Furthermore, contrary to the 15th September Jagran report, the emphasis was clearly on the caste of the accused, not family feud, and allegations of rape.
By the time the ToI report was published on the 23rd of September, the Congress party was already involved in the matter if the Jagran report from the 3rd of October is to be believed. It was after this that caste became the focal point of the incident in the media and family feud dissolved into the background.
The ToI report in question was authored by Anuja Jaiswal. On the same day, she tweeted a video of Shyoraj Jivan where the Congress leader could be seen inciting violence and casteist passions. He said that he was willing to go to jail but would not tolerate any ‘Thakur’ or anyone else looking at Valmiki women with “bad intentions”.
“We will #gouge their #eyes & #cut their #arms, if anyone tries to see our community girls with bad intentions,”said #Congress leader, #ShyorajJivanValmiki, adding he is ready to go 2 jail for committing such crime. He had gone to meet the gang-rape victim’s family members. #UP pic.twitter.com/r4bJd2AcNj— Anuja Jaiswal (@Anuja_Jaiswal11) September 23, 2020
24th September-28th September: The lull before the storm
The next day, on the 24th of February, Rohini Singh of The Wire, posted a tweet where she claimed that a Dalit girl was raped in Agra and Dalits have become a vote-bank in the country. Similarly, I.P. Singh, national spokesperson of the Samajwadi Party, claimed that a Dalit girl was gang-raped in Agra and targeted the Yogi government over the matter.
Although both spoke of an incident of rape in Agra, it can be said with a fair degree of certainty that they were referring to the Hathras Case for two reasons. Firstly, Agra Police clarified that no such rape had been reported in Agra and secondly, for some reason, Anuja Jaiswal, had mentioned Agra as the location for her report.
जनपद आगरा में आज दिनांक 24.09.2020 को दलित युवती के साथ सामूहिक बलात्कार की घटना घटित होने की सूचना प्राप्त नहीं हुई है।— AGRA POLICE (@agrapolice) September 24, 2020
अतः आगरा पुलिस इस असत्य एवं भ्रामक खबर का खंडन करती है।#UPPAgainstFakeNews pic.twitter.com/a1PWRlhYTd
On the 26th of September, Anuja Jaiswal again published a report on the matter with Agra cited as the location. The tone and tenor of her 26th September report were significantly different from the report three days earlier. While her first report said that the victim was out of danger, her second said that the doctors were not sure whether she would survive. It does not appear that she enquired the doctors as to what specifically changed between the 23rd and 26th of September.
In the most significant part of the report, it is stated, “The girl’s eldest brother said the investigation could have begun sooner had their mother spoken up. “It was only later that my mother told us she had found my sister semi-naked,” the girl’s brother, who had filed the first police complaint, told TOI. “She was worried about the stigma. Besides, the suspects belong to the dominant caste.” Charges under the SC/ST Act have also been added. PAC forces have been deployed in the village.”
It is pertinent to mention here that the 15th September Jagran report said that the victim had created a commotion following which the mother and villagers had reached the spot after which the accused had fled. Anuja Jaiswal had quoted one Dr Fakhrul Hoda to claim that her spinal cord was severely injured. The report does not make any mention of the family feud between the two families and the focus, again, was on caste.
The victim was transferred to the Safdurjung Hospital at Delhi for further treatment. By this time, the four accused of the crime had been arrested.
29th-30th September: The death and its aftermath
The victim passed away on the 29th of September, a fortnight after the incident and her family was notified of the same. The Police informed that there were no signs of rape from initial medical reports. Following the death of victim, IPC section 302 (murder) was also added. Under the SC/ST Act, the victim’s family had been given monetary compensation of Rs 10 lakh.
Dispelling news of brutality doing the rounds on the internet, the Police denied that her tongue was ripped out or that her eyes had been gouged out. The Police was denied that her spinal cord had been snapped.
She was cremated late into the night by her father and other family members as per the information received by OpIndia. Some media reports claimed that the cremation took place without the family’s approval. However, the victim’s father accompanied the police to the cremation ground where the rites were performed. The victim’s brother alleged that the police forced them to take the body to the cremation ground.
It was following the cremation that the controversy erupted massively into the national consciousness. The visuals coming out left an extremely bitter impression in the eyes of the public and the general impression was that the police and the district administration acted far too harshly in the matter. The general impression was also that the actions of the administration was entirely unjustified.
One of the central characters involved in conveying the above stated narrative to the public was Tanushree Pandey, a journalist with India Today, who had garnered huge praise from journalists and others in the media for the visuals she transmitted to the public regarding what happened on that night. A central aspect of the story that emerged is that the victim’s family wanted to take the body of the deceased to their home one last time but it was not permitted.
On the 30th of September, a report appeared on India Today that digressed from the now dominant narrative. It presented the accused’s version of events. The family of the accused claimed that they had been falsely accused over a longstanding family feud. “They were falsely accused of assaulting their family member. The grandfather of the deceased girl had hurt himself to send two of our family members to jail. Both Narendra and Ravi spent about 20 days in jail,” Rajwati Devi, mother of accused Ramu, told India Today TV.
“At the time of the incident, my son Ramu was on his job at the dairy chiller. One can check the attendance register or can speak to the manager. They will confirm that he was there. He leaves for duty as early as 7:30 am and returns at about 12:30 pm. He was falsely implicated in the case,” she said.
The same report also claimed that the victim’s family had said that the incident had nothing to do with the family feud and it was a pre-planned attack. It appeared to be a significant change from the initial report on the matter which considered the family feud as the reason for the attack. On the same day, Yogi Adityanath ordered an SIT probe into the matter.
By this time, other facts had started to emerge regarding the matter, on social media and elsewhere, which made people question the dominant narrative. Statements allegedly made by the victim and her mother made its way through to social media. In her statement, she blamed Sandeep, son of Guddu, for the attack. No other accused were mentioned.
Videos that emerged also showed that the victim was able to speak after the attack, although with quite a bit of difficulty. Other videos doing the rounds on the internet carrying the mother’s statement, presumably from the same date, shows her speaking of only a physical assault and not any instance of rape.
Hathras Case: October Rush
The 1st of October
On the 1st of October, ADG Prashant Kumar told ANI that the forensic reports that were awaited have been received and that the FSL report has found no sperm or semen in the samples collected from the victim’s body. He asserted that it concludes that there was no sexual assault, as was predicted from the post mortem report.
He further stated that despite swift action by the police to arrest the attackers and repeated clarifications in the case, certain groups have been involved to instigate caste-based violence based on false claims and misinformation. The same day, Priyanka Gandhi shared a video of the father of the victim where he claims that he was being pressurised.
There was also indication that he was being instructed to make specific statements by certain individuals. The father also said that he wants a CBI inquiry into the matter, again, it appears to have been said after being instructed by someone. The biggest twist in the story came the next day, on the 2nd of October.
The 2nd of October
The telephonic conversations between one India Today journalist and the brother of the deceased, Sandeep, has gone viral which has been accessed by OpIndia. In the audio clip, Tanushree Pandey can be heard trying hard to convince Sandeep to send her a video statement of his father alleging that he was under immense pressure from the administration.
Throughout the conversation, Tanushree Pandey appears insistent on coaxing out a very specific statement from Sandeep while the latter remains non-committal on his statement and appears hesitant to toe the line that the journalist wants him to toe. He confirms the journalist’s allegations of pressure and on other occasions, he says that his father was not very clear on whether he was pressurised or not.
Tanushree Pandey tells Sandeep that she has learnt from somewhere, she does not specify where, that an attempt is being made to blame the death of the sister on her family. It does appear to be an incendiary piece of information that has not been reported anywhere in the media. This bit of false information appears entirely fake and seems to have been invented solely to take advantage of the family’s misery to peddle a particular political agenda.
In another conversation that appears to be between villagers and Sandeep, the brother is advised that he should not accept Rs. 25 lakhs and reach a conclusion. He is told that he should even accept Rs. 50 lakh to reach a conclusion. The lady in that conversation says that some politician is saying that ‘faisla’ should not be reached. During this conversation, the names of one ‘Rahul’ and Manish Sisodia and Barkha Dutt also comes up.
In yet another conversation, an unidentified individual is heard telling Sandeep, the brother of the victim, to not leave his house because senior Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi would be visiting his home. In the conversation, the person could be heard telling Sandeep, “If anyone wishes to take you anywhere, you must not go, now Priyanka Gandhi will come to your house. Someone says you should go to Hathras, somewhere here, somewhere there, you must not go.”
The man continued, “Say that the police and the media are not allowing your relatives to come, that they have been kept for your protection or for Thakur’s. Tell them everything that has happened to you.” During the conversation, Sandeep tells the man that the SIT was on a visit and one ‘Sanjay bhaiya’, his father and two other people are sitting inside along with some Congress workers. The man further tells Sandeep, “Alright, don’t go anywhere. Now Priyanka Gandhi will come and tell her that pressure has been created on you and you want to create a video of that.”
The same day, Yogi Adityanath directed the suspension of the SP, the DSP, the Inspector and some other officials, based on the preliminary investigation report. The UP Government also ordered Narco Polygraph tests for the accused, the complainant and the police officials involved in the matter.
One of the cousins of the victim, who appears to be a minor, gave a byte to the media where he said that their phones were confiscated by the Police and they were being pressurised. He also claimed that an official had kicked his uncle.
The 3rd of October
India Today in a statement accepted the authenticity of the tapes OpIndia had released a day earlier. On the 3rd of October, the SIT probe was concluded and the media was provided access to the village of the family’s victim. the SDM also denied that the phones of the victim’s family were confiscated. That bit of misinformation was first spread by India Today.
The same day, the mother of the the victim told an AajTak journalist that she does not want a CBI investigation into the matter. “No, we don’t want the CBI to investigate the case. We want a team under the aegis of a Supreme Court judge probe the matter,” the mother responded when asked if the Hathras case should be transferred to the country’s premier investigation agency.
The victim’s mother also said that the family would not go a Narco test. Her argument was that they do not know what a Narco test is and therefore, would not like to take it. Simultaneously, a Congress supporter, Saket Gokhale, had approached the Allahabad High Court to prevent the investigating authorities from administering a Narco test on the victim’s family.
India Today, meanwhile, published a report where it asserted that one of the accused, Ramu, was not even present in the village during the incident. In the AajTak report, which is the Hindi channel of India Today, the journalist is seen speaking to the employer of the accused who says that at least 20-25 people work in the factory and all of them can attest that Ramu was working at the factory when the unfortunate Hathras incident took place.
According to Zee News, Madhusudan, a shift manager at the factory, also showed Ramu’s photo of that day in the factory’s internal WhatsApp group. Ramkumar (Ramu) is the uncle of the main accused Sandeep. Zee News has reported that according to the shift manager, Ramu’s presence is marked in the attendance calendar for both 14th and 15th of September, which proves that he could not have been present during the crime took place in Hathras.
UP Minister Ramapati Shastri said that the opposition wished to stir riots in the country. He said, “UP CM has already constituted an SIT in the case. The investigation has been initiated based on the preliminary report. The steps taken by the government will help bring the truth to light.” “Why is the Opposition against narco and polygraph test? The tweets and audiotapes posted by them point towards a conspiracy to incite riots under the garb of demanding justice in the Hathras case,” he added.
Meanwhile, a video went viral where members of the Thakur community in Uttar Pradesh could be heard expressing their anguish over the arrest of the accused in the Hathras case while claiming that the accused are being falsely implicated in a rape case. The gathering was organised on Friday (2nd of October) by the Savarna Samaj of more than two dozen villages.
“The FSL report says there was no rape but politicians and the media claim there was rape,” one of the voices could be heard saying. The apparent leader of the gathering said that an impartial investigation should be conducted and if any of the accused is found not-guilty, then they should be let off without bail. He also bemoans the fact that the reputation of the community has been tarnished.
The person also says that no one should create a nuisance and should not resort to any hooliganism. The person emphasised that no political party should come among them. He says that everyone has spat upon their kids and their community and their sentiments have been hurt because of it. “Only oppose the political parties, the rest will sort itself out,” he says. The panchayat also affirmed their support for a Narco test.
Yogi Adityanath ordered a CBI probe into the matter the same day. The decision, however, was opposed by the brother of the victim because an SIT investigation was apparently underway. There is another report that was published on Jagran the 3rd of October that hints at a possible contradiction. The report says mentions her elder brother saying that he was at the field but far away and her mother had already gone home with the grass. He says that he was the one who found the victim.
This is however is in stark contrast with everything that is known about the matter. Almost all reports agree that it was the mother who had discovered the daughter and her own statements confirm the same. Elsewhere, a brother of the victim claims that had her mother told them initially that the victim was discovered in a semi-naked stated, the investigation could have proceeded faster. Thus, certain things do not add up.
Hathras Case: Since then….
Yogi Adityanath, too, accused opposition parties of attempting to foment riots across the country. The comments by the UP CM without naming anyone came after the UP police filed an FIR under various sections of IPC alleging criminal conspiracy to incite violence in the state using the incident.
Consistent with that claim, a website called ‘Justice for Hathras’ was created and thousands of people were linked to the website through fake IDs. According to the probe, the website had received funding from Amnesty International, Fundamentalist organisations based out of Islamic Countries. It was subsequently pulled down by authorities.
The objective of the website was to create a wedge between the majority community in the country and undermine the Yogi and Modi government in Uttar Pradesh and India respectively. Objectionable content pertaining to inciting riots and safeguarding oneself during the riots was found on the website.
Also, Mau Police has registered a case against Suheldev Bharatiya Samaj Party’s leader Kamal Bharti for making an objectionable statement against women. A video has gone viral on social media platforms in which he said he would pay Rs 1 crore to any man from Thakur community who will bring his daughter or sister to sleep with him. He was referring to the Hathras case in which a 19-year-old Dalit woman was allegedly raped and beaten up by four upper caste men.
Cacophony of information explosion
There is a barrage of information that is pouring out on to social media related to the matter. Statements made by the father of the accused, Sandeep, have gone viral on social media. He claims that the victim was murdered by her own family.
#हाथरस के मुख्य आरोपी के पिता ने आज बड़ा खुलासा किया है, आखिर क्या वजह है कि ये इतना बड़ा घटनाक्रम हुआ? सालों पुरानी रंजिश का पीड़ित परिवार क्यों नहीं करता जिक्र? आरोपी और पीड़िता के प्रेम सम्बन्ध पर क्यों चूप्पी? ठाकुरों के अत्याचार की सच्चाई?— Shivam Pratap Singh (@shivampratapsi4) October 5, 2020
Ground Zero से देखिये ये रिपोर्ट- pic.twitter.com/UzzoBsLPmt
Then there are screenshots doing the rounds of Pradeep Narwal, national coordinator of AICC’s SC Department, tweeting about an attempt to murder on the 22nd of September which soon converted into rape five days later.
Nupur see this…— Being Sarika (@Maango_maan) October 4, 2020
From the timeline of Pradeep @Narwal_inc he is member AICC (S Caste dept)
On 22nd Sep he visits the #Hathras Victim and writes that “उसपर जानलेवा हमला हुआ है”
On 27Sept it becomes”दुष्कर्म”
As soon as @INCIndia neta visits Attempt to murder becomes rape. pic.twitter.com/AZYU3D4XNz
Then, there are comments of the sister-in-law of the victim doing the rounds where it is said two to four Thakur women should be brought and be left with their men and the treatment that was meted out to the victim should be meted out to Thakur women as well.
This is shocking statement from Bhabhi of Hathras victim. I, too, want justice for Manisha but this is not the way.— Atul Ahuja (@atulahuja_) October 4, 2020
This is the result of caste politics played by Rahul Gandhi & Liberal Media. This is what the Opposition wanted👇👇 pic.twitter.com/7E9taJHWha
Then there are other comments doing the rounds on social media on the Hathras Case by apparent villagers who assert that the accused are actually innocent and the girl was murdered by the mother and brother.
Thus, quite clearly, a lot of troubling information is doing the rounds of social media related to the matter and a lot of it is unverified. Furthermore, it is also to be noted that the rape charge was added eight days after the incident and so were the names of three of the accused. The family of the victim has also flip-flopped on CBI inquiry and subsequently, pieces of information has surfaced which appear to contradict the dominant narrative of the matter.
Under such circumstances, a CBI inquiry appears to be the sensible course forward to resolve various aspects of the Hathras Case and to satisfy the doubts that anyone might have.