The village of the 19-year-old Hathras assault victim has been virtually cordoned off with her family members being held ‘hostage’ all day by men in khaki.
To add to the Kafkaesque situation, media persons have swooped down on the village like locusts; however, section 144 of the CrPC is sitting on their heads like an incubus, keeping them at bay.
On Friday morning, a minor member of the flustered family managed to sneak out, in a desperate bid to connect with the media. Meandering through the fields, he reached the outer limits of the village but while he was closeted with a media person, a policeman appeared from nowhere and the minor fled from the spot.
But even as the local administration was trying its best to keep the family cooped in, the incident has stirred caste politics and the Savarn Samaj, unmindful of section 144, staged a dharna not too far from the Boolgarhi village demanding justice for the men accused of brutalising the 19-year-old Dalit girl.
A panchayat was also held and ruled in favour of the four accused who are in police custody, insisting that they were being made scapegoats by political parties; the panchayat also demanded a CBI inquiry into the case.
The Hathras victim's father had said in a video earlier on Thursday that his family was pressurised to hold a video conference with UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath. While seeking a CBI inquiry into the events that led to his daughter's death, the father had also claimed that three of his family members were intimidated by the local administration into signing a statement saying they are satisfied with the probe being conducted by a special investigation team (SIT).
Meanwhile, disturbing visuals have surfaced of the fateful night which show the family of the victim arguing with cops, female relatives throwing themselves on the hood of the ambulance which was carrying the body, and the mother weeping inconsolably.
Adityanath, whose administration has been criticised over its ham-handed handling of the incident, finally spoke up on Friday and claimed the government was "committed to the safety, security and development of all mothers and sisters". "Those who even think of harming mothers and daughters in UP, their destruction is assured. They will get such punishment that it will set an example for the future. This is our commitment and promise," the Chief Minister tweeted in Hindi.
Bhim Army chief Chandrashekhar Azad has demanded answers from PM Modi, reminding the latter that Uttar Pradesh had sent him to Parliament. ‘‘She was raped and murdered... her bones were broken and body disposed of like garbage. When there are human rights violation in Uttar Pradesh, is the Prime Minister not obliged to say a word?" he asked.
"The Prime Minister can hear neither her screams, nor those of her family. How long will you stay silent, Prime Minister? You will have to give answers. Today, at 5 pm, we are coming... to demand answers. Your silence is a danger for our daughters," he added.
He further told the Prime Minister: "You will have to speak... you will have to give answers and you will have to ensure justice is delivered".
Later, Azad descended along with his supporters at Delhi's Jantar Mantar, where hundreds of people and leaders from opposition parties had converged there to demand justice. "We have assembled here in grief. I pray to God that our daughter's soul rests in peace. I request the Uttar Pradesh government with my hands folded, hang the guilty as soon as possible. They should get such punishment that no one will dare commit a crime like this again," Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said.
After sunset, the protesters lit up candles and stood holding them in the dark, as policemen watched over the proceedings. The Delhi Police had imposed restrictions at India Gate, after which the agitation was shifted to Jantar Mantar, 3 km away.
Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, in turn, attended a prayer meet at Delhi's Valmiki Temple. ‘We will ensure justice for our sister. We won't sit quietly," she said, addressing a crowd of Congress supporters and demonstrators.