The Director-General of Uttar Pradesh Police, HC Awasthy, reached Hathras today amid controversy over the local administration's handling of the alleged gang rape and murder of a 20-year-old Dalit woman, by four men from the so-called upper caste, last month.
HC Awasthy, the UP DGP, accompanied by Additional Chief Secretary (Home) Awanish Awasthi, visited the victim's family this afternoon.
The visit - the first by such high-ranking officials - comes as a wave of criticism is directed at the Yogi Adityanath government over both the Hathras tragedy and similarly horrific crimes against women.
Visuals showed the top officials squatting on the ground as Home Secretary Awanish Awasthi repeatedly folded his hands before the victim's family with a large number of reporters around them; media persons were allowed to enter the village this morning, 48 hours after borders were sealed.
Additional Chief Secretary of UP Awanish Kumar Awasthi said, "We have spoken to the family members and assured them that we will investigate the case properly. The Chief Minister has already formed a special investigation team and a woman officer is also a part of the team. The first report will be out tomorrow at 4 pm."
The visit also comes a day after an angry Allahabad High Court summoned top officials, although only on October 12. The court said the matter was of "immense public importance... involves allegation of high-handedness by authorities resulting in violation of basic human and fundamental rights".
Yesterday five policemen, including the Superintendent of Police, were suspended from Hathras district as the BJP government in the state tries to quell the flood of criticism coming its way. Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath claimed his government was "committed to the safety and security of women".
The family of the young woman from Hathras has, however, alleged multiple lapses from the police and government throughout the case. The police also triggered outrage after rushing to cremate the body at 2.30 am, after allegedly locking up the family in their homes.
They have also accused district officials of locking them up in their homes and taking away their phones. However, Hathras Joint Magistrate Prem Prakash Meena dismissed those allegations today, telling NDTV: "The allegations by a boy who spoke to some reporters on Friday are baseless. If a child can escape, it shows there were no restrictions on the family. No phones were confiscated".
Police have also been criticised for manhandling of opposition leaders looking to speak to the young woman's family. Earlier this week both Congress MP Rahul Gandhi and the Trinamool Congress's Derek O'Brien were shoved to the ground by UP cops as they tried to reach Hathras.
Mr Gandhi was allowed to cross this evening, hours after the UP officials met with the family.
The 20-year-old woman, who died Tuesday at Delhi's Safdarjung Hospital, suffered fractures, paralysis and a spinal injury after a savage assault by four men from the so-called upper castes. The police said there was a gash in her tongue; she had bitten it while being strangled.
The assault has been compared to the 2012 gang rape in Delhi.
Furious protests against the police and the government have been staged across the country, including one in national capital Delhi on Friday, where Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal made an appearance and demanded that the four accused be executed.