Protesters demand justice for the 19-year-old victim and Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath’s resignation.
A massive protest erupted in Delhi on October 2 evening as a number of civil society activists, students, women and political leaders gathered at Jantar Mantar against the gang rape of a young woman in Hathras district and the U.P. government’s response to it.
Wearing masks and raising slogans against the U.P. administration, they demanded justice for the 19-year-old victim and asked Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath to resign.
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The protest was to be held at India Gate initially but had to shifted to Jantar Mantar owing to the prohibitory orders in place in the Rajpath area. Several political leaders, including from the Aam Aadmi Party and the Left, joined the protest.
Most of them said they were outraged over the way U.P. Police cremated the body of the victim, who died in Delhi’s Safdarjung Hospital, a fortnight after she was allegedly raped by four upper caste men.
The woman’s family has alleged that the police forced them to conduct the last rites in the dead of the night. But local police officers have said the cremation was carried out “as per the wishes of the family”.
“What is happening in U.P. is goondaraj,” lawyer-activist Prashant Bhushan said. “The police have surrounded the village, are not allowing opposition leaders and mediapersons to enter it and have taken away the mobile phones of the family members of the victim.”
Bollywood actor Swara Bhaskar, Bhim Army chief Chandrasekhar Azad, AAP MLA Saurabh Bhardwaj, Left leaders Brinda Karat and Sitaram Yechury also attended the protest.
‘Complete breakdown of anything called rule of law’
Swaraj India leader Yogendra Yadav said the Hathras incident “brings out the complete breakdown of anything called rule of law”.
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“It’s not just that a rape happened, or that she was killed which is worse. There is a political patronage right from the beginning… The Uttar Pradesh administration is out there to ensure that this news doesn’t come out.”
Mr. Yadav alleged that the family was denied even a decent cremation for the victim, which even criminals are entitled to.
Calling what happened a “shutdown of democracy”, he said, “The U.P. government has no basis to exist anymore.”
Left wants Yogi sacked
Ms. Yechury, Ms. Karat and CPI general secretary D. Raja were among the leaders present at the protest site. They questioned the silence of the central government over the issue.
“The silence of the central government and the top leadership of the BJP on such a heinous crime and the U.P. government’s response thereafter speaks volumes about the authoritarian and anti-democratic ‘chehra’, ‘chaal’, ‘charitra’, and ‘chintan’ of the ruling party,” Mr. Yechury said.
“The Uttar Pradesh government has no right to stay in power. Our demand is that justice should be served,” he said.
We need to fight against ‘rape epidemic’, says Swara Bhaskar
It is time the country starts fighting the “rape epidemic”, Ms. Bhaskar said as she joined the protest.
“People from different groups are here, this shows how enraged people are against what happened in Hathras, Balrampur, Azamgargh…there is a rape epidemic which has spread in the country, especially the kind of news we are getting from Uttar Pradesh,” Ms. Bhaskar said while addressing the protesters. “It is time we start fighting against the rape epidemic…and today we are standing against it here and we have to win,” she added.
No hope for justice till UP CM resigns: Azad
There’s no hope for justice for the Hathras victim till Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath resigns and the Supreme Court takes cognisance of the issue, Mr. Azad said.
Mr. Azad, who was at the protest site in Jantar Mantar, asserted that he will go to Hathras and the struggle will continue.
“The Hathras victim cannot get justice till U.P. CM resigns and the Supreme Court takes cognisance of the issue. These kind of culprits should be punished as soon as possible so that others get scared before committing such crimes,” he said, addressing the protesters.
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“We will go to Hathras and till the time the matter doesn’t come to Delhi, there is no chance of getting justice,” Mr. Azad added.
Kejriwal joins protest
Addressing the protesters, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said there should no politics on the incident.
“No rape incidents should happen in the country,” Mr. Kejriwal added.
Restrictions at Metro stations
The Delhi Metro imposed, and later lifted, restrictions on entry into and exit from a few stations in view of the protest.
“Entry & exit gate for Janpath is closed. Trains will not be halting at this station. Exit gates for Rajiv Chowk and Patel Chowk are closed,” the DMRC tweeted as the protest began to grow.
Later the restrictions were lifted, first at the Rajiv Chowk and Patel Chowk stations, and later at the Janpath station.
All three stations fall in the vicinity of the protest venue in central Delhi.