At the village in Uttar Pradesh's Hathras of a young Dalit woman who died days after a savage assault and alleged gang rape, upper caste men defending the four men arrested for the crime are on camera shouting threats as Bhim Army chief Chandrashekhar Azad visited the victim's family on Sunday. Videos that have surfaced online demonstrate the complete fearlessness and impunity with which the men go around dropping threats in the presence of scores of policemen.
After the Bhim Army leader's visit, the UP police filed a case against Chandrashekhar Azad and 400 others, accusing them of violating a ban on large gatherings in the area. But no action has been taken against some 500 men who gathered in support of the gang rape accused; some among them openly warn Mr Azad in videos that are viral online.
"Meetings are held openly to support the Hathras suspects. The victim's family is at risk," said Mr Azad today, demanding special security for the woman's family. The family has alleged threats and intimidation since the woman's death last Tuesday revived national spotlight on the incident.
The upper caste men of the village, who held meetings of the "Rashtriya Savarn (upper caste) Parishad", have accused the woman and her family of falsely blaming the four men who were arrested after her statement. They are also rooting for a CBI probe, which has been recommended by the state's Yogi Adityanath government.
"Do you not have faith in the CBI?" He (Chandrashekhar) does not trust the CBI, has come here to do politics. Just let us meet him once then we will make sure he does (trust the CBI)," a man shouts in one of the videos, surrounded by policemen who simply watch him.
"Thakurs are born to withstand blows...Come out, your big brothers are here to meet you," the man keeps yelling, apparently to draw out the Bhim Army leader. The police are seen trying to reason with him. One of the men accused of attacking the 20-year-old woman has the same name as her brother. The men alleged that her brother had killed her and the other man had been framed. "Who says she was raped," they said.
The Uttar Pradesh police have disputed the woman's statement that she was gang raped and have cited the report of a forensic lab in Agra as proof. But experts question the report, pointing out that it was based on samples taken 11 days after the crime.
The woman was attacked in the fields on September 14 by men who allegedly tortured her and tried to strangle her with her dupatta. She was left with critical injuries, fractures, a spinal injury and breathing difficulties because of a broken neck. The police claimed a deep cut in her tongue formed when she bit it while being strangled. The incident took on a caste twist because the woman was a Dalit and her alleged attackers are from the powerful Thakur community.