A 20-year-old woman, who died on Tuesday in Delhi two weeks after she was gang-raped and tortured in Uttar Pradesh's Hathras, was cremated by policemen last night, allegedly as her family and relatives were locked up in their homes. A disturbing sequence of events captured in overnight visuals shows the family arguing with cops, female relatives throwing themselves on the hood of the ambulance carrying the body and a mother weeping helplessly as cops insist on taking her daughter straight to cremation, without allowing a last look.
The woman died in Delhi's Safdarjung Hospital yesterday morning. She had suffered multiple fractures, paralysis and a gash in her tongue in the horrific assault that drew parallels to the 2012 Nirbhaya gang-rape. But long after her death, her family had to endure a night of unending horror.
As protesters outside the Delhi hospital chanted "hang the rapists", the woman's brothers complained that her body had been whisked away by the UP police without their knowledge.
Her father and brothers sat on protest but they were taken away by the cops in a black Scorpio with UP plates.
The woman's body was taken to her village in Hathras, about 200 km from Delhi, after midnight. As her family and villagers suspected the UP police wanted to complete the last rites right then, in the middle of the night, they insisted that this was "against their tradition"; the woman's father pleaded with the police to be allowed to take her home and cremate her in the morning.
"We wanted the last rites to be performed according to the Hindu traditions. Despite our protests, the cremation was performed. They took the body forcefully. We couldn't see our daughter's face for the last time," the woman's father told NDTV.
At the village, female relatives tried to block the vehicle by hugging the bonnet. A woman, believed to be the mother of the 20-year-old, sat on the road sobbing and beating her chest.
The police vehicle was stopped at multiple points before the cops allegedly pushed the protesters away and drove towards the funeral ground.
Appeals were also made to District Magistrate Praveen Kumar Laxkar to take her body to her home for last rites after daybreak.
At 2:30 am, while most of her family was home, the police cremated the body.
Continuing their inexplicable acts, the Hathras police formed a human chain to keep reporters, the family and villagers away. Only cops were present. Her family could not see her one last time. They were allegedly locked up at home.
Amid spiraling outrage, the Hathras police claimed the cremation was carried out with the family's consent and some members were present. It turned out to be one uncle - not her parents - who was called and shown the cremation.
"We have videos of family members present there. I will be happy to share with media. We performed the cremation after the family's consent. Some members of the family were present at the cremation. The media reports are not true," District Magistrate Praveen Kumar Laxkar said today.
All four attackers, upper caste men from the woman's village, are in jail. They will now also be charged with murder.
The UP police, which is under scrutiny over alleged lapses throughout the case, has been accused of rushing the cremation in a desperate cover-up attempt.
According to the family, the police had at first accused the woman of lying about her injuries. The police had initially registered an attempted murder case but added rape charges only after the woman's formal statement a week after the incident, when she was able to speak. Yesterday, a senior officer said rape had not been confirmed and they were waiting for a forensic report.