A young woman from northern India died on Tuesday in the national capital, Delhi, two weeks after she was allegedly gang-raped and tortured in her home village of Hathras in Uttar Pradesh.
Local police then reportedly cremated her on Tuesday night, allegedly against the wishes of her family, who say they were denied the chance to see her body before the ritual.
“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,” India’s NDTV reported on Wednesday.
The woman’s brothers allege that Uttar Pradesh police removed her body from the Delhi hospital immediately after her death on Tuesday morning and that it was taken away without their knowledge. The authorities then transported the woman’s body to Hathras, about 125 miles southeast of Delhi, where it arrived after midnight on Tuesday.
“As her family and villagers suspected the UP[Uttar Pradesh] police wanted to complete the last rites right then, in the middle of the night,” NDTV said.
The woman’s family told police that the rushed cremation was against their Hindu tradition and the woman’s father “pleaded with the police to be allowed to take her home and cremate her in the morning,” according to the report. The family also appealed to a local district magistrate to delay the cremation until after daybreak.
“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.
In a last-ditch effort to stop the cremation, the woman’s family and fellow villagers attempted to block the police car transporting the woman’s body to the local funeral home for the ritual but were unable to stop the vehicle from proceeding. Once the police reached the funeral home, they allegedly “formed a human chain to keep reporters, the family, and villagers away. Only cops were present.” Police not only kept the woman’s family away from the ceremony but also allegedly locked them up inside their own home due to their tireless efforts to impede the cremation process.
Uttar Pradesh police claimed that they did, in fact, have permission to rush the cremation from “some” members of the woman’s family.
“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 on Wednesday.
The undisclosed family members “turned out to be one uncle – not her parents – who was called and shown the cremation,” NDTV revealed.
The Uttar Pradesh police had already been under public scrutiny over their alleged mishandling of the woman’s rape case prior to the Tuesday night incident.
The woman, reported as 19 years old by the Hindustan Times, was reportedly raped in Hathras “by four men on September 14” and died two weeks later “after battling serious injuries.” According to NDTV, the woman “had suffered multiple fractures, paralysis, and a gash in her tongue in the horrific assault.” She was hospitalized in Delhi “in a critical condition and on ventilator support” before she died on Tuesday.
Uttar Pradesh police are currently “under scrutiny over alleged lapses throughout the case … [and have] been accused of rushing the cremation in a desperate cover-up attempt,” according to the report.
“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,” NDTV revealed on Wednesday.
All four of the woman’s alleged attackers are considered “upper-caste men” from Hathras, according to the report. The men were arrested and are expected to face murder charges.