A week after a young woman allegedly gang raped and tortured in Hathras died of her wounds, fresh allegations and theories are emerging in the Uttar Pradesh police investigation. Pushing a new narrative, the police claim there is evidence that the victim's family knew one of the accused.
The 20-year-old Dalit woman was assaulted by four upper caste men of her village on September 14. She died last Tuesday of horrific injuries from the attack; she had multiple fractures, spinal injuries, a broken neck and a gash in her tongue.
The UP police say call records reveal that the woman's brother had was in touch with one of the four men arrested for the crime.
Some 104 calls were made between the brother and accused Sandeep Thakur from October last year to March, the police claim.
"The victim's brother will be questioned on the basis of the call records," sources told NDTV on Wednesday.
The latest twist serves to prop up the UP police claim that there is more to the case than caste rivalry and that the young woman knew her alleged attackers. But no police officer is willing to go on record.
To explore these details, a Special Investigation Team or SIT inquiring into the case has been given 10 more days. The team was to submit its report today but has been given an extension on the orders of Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, a top official said today.
The three-member team questioned the woman's brother. "We have no contact with them. We have only one phone in the home. If the police has the audio of the calls, they must produce them," he said.
The village chief or Pradhan, who is a Thakur -- the same community as the accused -- says the victim and the main accused were in a relationship. He claims he had called a panchayat four months ago to mediate between the two families and the gang rape allegation is a "lie".
The woman's family, one of the four Dalit families in the village of 100 houses, feel hopelessly outnumbered by the upper castes and want to leave.
They believe the police and the upper caste are now aligned to discredit what happened to their daughter.
After calls for their security and the Supreme Court's notice asking for an update on witness protection, CCTV cameras were installed at the entrance to their home, but they feel unsafe.
"We will not stay here, we will build our hut somewhere else. This happened with my daughter today. What if it happens to my granddaughters tomorrow," said the woman's father.
The police, facing criticism over their handling of the case and accused by the woman's family of a slow response to the initial complaint, have been contesting several facts in the case.
They say, for example, that the woman's allegation of gang rape is not borne out by forensic reports. Experts question this claim, pointing out that the woman's samples were taken a week after the incident.
Public fury went up by several degrees when the woman was cremated at 2.30 am on September 30 by the police in the absence of her family. Her parents had pleaded with the cops to be allowed to take the body home and perform the funeral the next morning.
The police told the Supreme Court yesterday that the dead-of-night cremation was necessary because of intelligence inputs of large-scale violence the next morning. They also say there is no question of any cover-up attempt as the post-mortem had been done.