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30 September 2020 10:32

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First person account: A harrowing, sleepless night in Hathras as UP Police kept out family and cremated rape victim

Image copyright Abhishek Mathur / BBC Image caption The girl's family has accused the police of cremating her body without their permission The family of a woman who died after she was gang-raped has accused police officials of cremating her body without their permission. The 19-year-old Dalit (formerly untouchable) woman was allegedly raped by four upper-caste men in Hathras district in northern India. Local journalist Abhishek Mathur, who witnessed the cremation from a distance, told the BBC that the police kept her family and media away from the funeral pyre. The victim's brother said that police officials were putting pressure on the family to cremate her immediately. "When we refused, they took the body in an ambulance and cremated her," he said.

Mr Mathur said the victim's mother wanted to take her body home for rituals before the last rites, but her request was denied. "Police had formed a human-chain to stop the protesting crowds, the family and the media from getting close to the cremation spot," he added. The victim's brother said some police officers were rude to them. The gang rape of the 19-year-old Dalit teen is one such case that has caused widespread outrage. Following the outrage, the Hathras police have denied reports that they cremated her body without the family's consent, but many local journalists have contested their story.

Videos shared widely on news TV channels and social media show her distraught family and villagers making several attempts to claim her body as the police ambulance arrived in the village. Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Activists in Delhi took to the streets to protest over the news of the victim's death The victim's brother said that no arrests had been made in the first 10 days after the incident took place. On Twitter, the victim's death is among the top discussion trends, with many calling her the forgotten Nirbhaya, a reference to the 2012 gang-rape and murder of a woman in Delhi that shocked the world. The body of the 19-year-old Dalit woman, who died in a Delhi hospital after she was gang-raped, was cremated in Hathras in the early hours of Wednesday. On Tuesday evening, my cameraperson Waqar Ahmed and I left for Hathras in Uttar Pradesh after a 19-year-old Dalit woman, gang-raped and tortured by four men in Uttar Pradesh's Hathras two weeks ago, died.

At 12.45 am, we reached the woman's native village Boolgarhi after the Uttar Pradesh Police took the victim's body and her family members back from the hospital. HAPPENING NOW — #Hathras rape victim's body has reached her native village, Boolgarhi in Hathras, where the horrific incident took place. Read: India outraged, demands justice for Hathras gangrape victim in united voice A major ruckus broke out at night as the family alleged that they were being forced to cremate the woman's body at night. #HathrasCase UP Police officials forcing grieving parents to cremate the body overnight saying "I'm from Rajasthan & in our culture we don't keep the body for long. Mother is begging in front of the cops, please let me take the body home once, only once pic.twitter.com/aQjoTlvSvl — Tanushree Pandey (@TanushreePande) September 29, 2020 The inconsolable mother of the woman kept requesting the officials to allow her to take the body of her daughter home for one last time.

Even as her tears didn't stop, the victim's mother begged and asked officials to let the family cremate their daughter as per Hindu rituals. On why the hurry to cremate the woman, a UP Police official said, "I'm from Rajasthan and in our culture we don't keep the body for long." Police tried to pacify the family of the woman and other protesters but when they failed, the officials forced me to shut my phone camera. Read: UP govt forms 3-member panel to probe Hathras rape, death, asks for report in 7 days Police barricaded the family inside their home and burnt the body without letting anybody know. Yes, as the pyre of the 19-year-old rape victim burnt, cops laughed at me for asking questions. The brother of the victim told me that the police had been forcing them to cremate the body.

ALSO READ | Exclusive: UP Police cremates Hathras gangrape victim's body even as family protests ALSO READ | Hathras gangrape: DM announces Rs 10 lakh compensation for family of dead Dalit woman ALSO WATCH | Why was Hathras victim's body cremated forcefully, UP Police responds The Hathras rape victim died at a Delhi hospital on Tuesday after battling for life for two weeks. A 19-year-old woman in Hathras, who was gangraped and severely injured and left to die on September 14, succumbed to grave injuries while battling for life at a hospital in Delhi. As the death triggered protests across the country, UP Police cremated the body in the wee hours of Wednesday even as the family continued to protest seeking custody of the body. The Uttar Pradesh government headed by CM Yogi Adityanath has ordered a probe by a 3-member panel and fastracking of the rape and death case of the Hathras woman. As per the family of the rape victim, her brother made the first complaint, which is mentioned in the first FIR. So obviously, we couldn't give a statement if it was rape or gangrape to the Hathras police at Chandpa Police thana where the first FIR was lodged. Police came to the hospital on September 20 but my sister couldn't give her statement that day as she was not in the condition. As per the Hathras rape victim's family and police, for the first time on September 22, the woman mentioned the gangrape and named three other accused. Indian police were accused on Wednesday of cremating the body of a 19-year-old woman against her family's will after she was allegedly gang-raped by four men in the country's latest horrific sexual assault. The teenager from India's marginalised Dalit community suffered serious injuries in a brutal sexual attack two weeks ago, according to her family and police, and died at a New Delhi hospital on Tuesday. The case has sparked widespread anger across India that was further fuelled on Wednesday by accusations that police seized the woman's body and cremated it against the wishes of her family. On Tuesday night, clashes between police and protesters appalled by the killing erupted outside the hospital, before a large group of officers escorted the hearse back to her native village in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh. Her family told local media that the corpse was seized by police upon its arrival at the village in Hathras district, despite resistance from relatives and villagers, and was cremated in the middle of the night. Police did not offer an explanation but multiple relatives protested against the 3am cremation, saying they wanted the body to lie at the family home for a time so absent loved ones could return to pay their respects. Hathras police then ordered that the cremation go ahead and family members were forced to join, relatives told local media. "Her mother kept asking the police to allow her to see her face one last time. Police chief Vikrant Vir denied the allegations, saying the cremation took place with the consent of the family. "The police provided the firewood and helped the family in the cremation. On Tuesday, hundreds of people including the victim's relatives gathered outside the Delhi hospital to protest against the attack before authorities deployed riot police forcing them to disperse. The latest assault comes months after four men were hanged for the brutal gang rape and murder of a student on a bus in Delhi in 2012 — a case that came to symbolise the nation's problem with sexual violence. An average of 87 rape cases were reported every day last year, according to the latest data released on Tuesday by the National Crime Records Bureau, but large numbers are thought to go unreported. Political leaders across party lines on Wednesday expressed grief and outrage over the death of a 19-year-old Dalit woman from Uttar Pradesh's Hathras district and the way she was cremated. The woman's family has said that the police forcibly cremated her body at around 3 am and that they were not allowed to take her body home. Videos on social media show the family arguing with policemen and weeping as the police insisted on cremating the body without allowing them to take it home. "Here is a rape victim being cremated by police at 2:30 am without family members. Here is a rape victim being cremated by police at 2:30 am without family members. Her brother, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, said that the way the woman was cremated was "insulting and unjust." "A daughter of India has been raped and murdered," he said in a tweet. Delhi Commission for Women Chairperson Swati Maliwal, meanwhile, requested Chief Justice of India SA Bobde and other top court judges to take cognisance of the Hathras gangrape case, take immediate action against erring officials, give strict punishment to the accused and to frame laws to stop crimes against women, ANI reported. Several other women rights groups said the victim was robbed of dignity even in her death, PTI reported. Members of the Hathras victim's community staged a protest in the city on Wednesday, ANI reported. Members of the community of #Hathras gang-rape victim, protest in the city demanding justice for her. The Congress and Bhim Army had staged protests outside the Safdarjung Hospital in Delhi after the woman's death on Tuesday. Bhim Army and Congress Party workers stage a protest outside Safdarjung Hospital over the death of Hathras gangrape victim, in New Delhi on Tuesday.