The Hathras incident has become a political slugfest where ruling and opposition parties are engaged in allegations and counter-allegations. After the young victim, a 19-year-old girl, succumbed to her injuries on 29 September, a lot of claims and misinformation have been doing rounds on the social and mainstream media.
Initially, many media reports had claimed that the victim had her tongue severed, eyes gouged out, spine broken and was brutally raped by a group of men in her village. However, the police later clarified that the claims of brutality were false.
The police had stated that the claims of eyes gouged out and tongue cut etc are false. They had stated that the girl was brutally strangulated, resulting in damage to her neck and spine. The victim had also bitten her tongue during the attack, due to which there was an injury on the tongue. The police statement had mentioned that the victim was able to speak and the injuries, (neck and tongue) were due to the strangulation. They have asserted that the victim had spoken to them and had recorded her spoken statement and had named the accused before police herself.
‼️खण्डन/Denial‼️— HATHRAS POLICE (@hathraspolice) September 29, 2020
➡️ कतिपय सोशल मीडिया के माध्यम से यह असत्य खबर सार्वजनिक रुप से फैलायी जा रही है कि “थाना चन्दपा क्षेत्रान्तर्गत दुर्भाग्यपूर्ण घटित घटना में मृतिका की जीभ काटी गयी, आँख फोडी गयी तथा रीढ की हड्डी तोड दी गयी थी
हाथरस पुलिस इस असत्य एवं भ्रामक खबर का खंडन करती है pic.twitter.com/tyBTi1xZhp
Videos shared on social media that showed the victim and her family in a hospital, much before the media hype over ‘gang rape’ claims, also show that the girl had injuries on her neck, and was speaking to people.
Discrepancies between media claims and details that emerged in the case later
Media reports have been claiming that the Hathras victim was gang-raped. Though the initial reports of brutalities like gouging eyes out and cutting tongue were proven false soon, reports persisted, however, that the victim was gang-raped.
Several videos have emerged on social media, claiming to be that of the initial statements of the victim and her mother, where there is no mention of gang rape or any kind of sexual assault. Speaking to apparent local media persons, the mother of the victim was seen stating that they were in the fields cutting the grass when a local boy Sandeep, from the ‘Thakur’ caste had attacked the girl and strangulated her.
In a video circulating on social media, the mother of the victim, reportedly in her first media statement after the incident, is seen saying that the accused Sandeep, son of Guddu in their village, had attacked the girl and strangulated her. There are several videos circulating, all have the similar statement from the mother, that they had a long dispute with Sandeep’s family, and Sandeep had attacked the girl and strangulated her, in an attempt to kill her. There have been no claims of rape or gang rape. She also mentions that it was Sandeep alone and no one else.
यूपी को बदनाम करने की साज़िश रचने वालों को एक्सपोज़ करने वाला वीडियो, घटना के तत्काल बाद माँ का असली बयान। pic.twitter.com/PYw2Nk9nTh— Rishi Bagree (@rishibagree) October 2, 2020
Video of Victim’s statement
In another video shared by Twitter user ‘Shash’, the victim’s statement can be heard. In this video, the victim is visibly in pain, and seems to have a neck injury with clear strangulation marks on her neck.
Wincing in pain, the victim says that she has been strangulated. She further states that the accused had strangulated her with hands. Some of her words are not clear in the video. Someone in the background asks why did the accused strangulate her, to which her answer is not clear. She further states that he strangulated her with his hands. On background, her mother says that they visit the fields every day for work.
The police complaint filed by the family also mentions that the girl was attacked by Sandeep (not a group of men) who had strangulated her in an attempt to kill her. The initial media reports of the incident also have the same version, that the accused Sandeep had strangulated the victim in an attempt to kill her.
Police say post-mortem, forensic examination found no evidence of rape
The UP Police had stated that the post mortem report did not mention any injuries that may have indicated rape or sexual assault. ADG Prashant Kumar had stated that the forensic lab report of the samples collected from the victim’s body have ruled out rape or sexual assault.
Incidents of gang rape spike a lot of public outrage and are often hyped by media, ignoring other crimes that are ‘less sensational’. The Hathras incident has been already used for political goal-scoring, media propaganda and allegations of police and government apathy.
A young victim had died after a brutal attack. A 19-year-old girl is physically no match for an adult male. The brutal way the girl has been strangulated, eventually leading to her death, is condemnable and certainly deserves the harshest punishment. The images, reports and videos of the incident also subtly lay down the stark public, media and administrative apathy to poor victims of crime. But it is not clear how, and why the allegations of gang rape and brutal assault (eyes gouged out, tongue cut) etc were incorporated into the case.
Allegations of police apathy towards the victim’s family, including negligence in filing initial complaint and the hurried way the police performed the last rites of the victim are also under scanner. A lot of things do not add up. When the family only accused one person, how and from where the allegations of gang rape were brought into the case? Only a detailed investigation will reveal the truth.