New Delhi: A 20-year-old Dalit woman from Uttar Pradesh’s Hathras, who was allegedly gang-raped and assaulted by four men on 14 September, succumbed to her injuries Tuesday at the Safdarjung Hospital in the national capital.
The four accused had allegedly dragged her into a field, and then raped and assaulted her. They left her grievously injured and unconscious. According to the police, the accused had strangled the woman with her dupatta, damaging her spinal cord and neck. She allegedly bit her tongue off too while trying to resist the assault.
Her younger brother confirmed her death to ThePrint.
“It’s been eight years since the Nirbhaya case happened. When I learnt about it, I never realised that one day my sister would also fall prey to the same crime. My sister was in extreme pain, we couldn’t understand what she was undergoing, but still hoped that she would survive … she put up a strong, long fight,” said the brother, who is a student.
“Those men need to be punished immediately to send the message out there — that women and Dalits deserve the same level of treatment as the rest of the people,” he said.
The woman had been shifted to Safdarjung Hospital Monday from the Jawaharlal Nehru Medical College in Aligarh since her condition hadn’t improved.
According to doctors at both the hospitals, the woman had sustained severe injuries on her neck and back, was unable to breathe properly, suffering from quadriplegia (paralysis in all four limbs), and remained critical.
Earlier in the day, a senior doctor at Safdarjung, who didn’t wish to be named, said the woman was extremely critical, and the intervening night was going to decide if she would survive.
The woman is survived by parents and four siblings. Her father and elder brother work as daily wage labourers, and the family supplements its income by selling milk from the two cows it owns.
The accused and police action
The woman had made her statement in the case to the police last week after regaining consciousness.
The police has arrested all four accused — Sandeep, his uncle Ravi, their friend Lavkush and Ramu — and charged them under Indian Penal Code sections for gang-rape, and the SC/ST Act.
While the woman was from the Scheduled Caste Valmiki community, all four accused belong to upper castes.
According to the woman’s family, the police allegedly acted against the accused only after there was a social media outrage in the case. Her brother, quoted above, alleged that the police didn’t help them initially.
However, Hathras Superintendent of Police (SP) Vikrant Vir denied these allegations. “We are trying our best to get the family justice in fast-track court. The compensation amount under the ST/SC Act has been transferred to the father’s account,” Vir told ThePrint.
The SHO of Chandpa police station in Hathras district was transferred to police lines district this week for “his failure to promptly act in the case”.
Speaking to ThePrint, the woman’s brother spoke about the morning the woman was assaulted.
“My mother, sister and brother-in-law had gone to a field to get some grass for the cows at around 7:30 am. Jijaji went home earlier with a large bundle of grass but mother and sister continued to cut them. There was a bajra crop on either side of where they were,” he said.
“The accused were already in place and when both (mother and daughter) became a little distant from each other, they came from behind, strangled her with her dupatta and dragged her inside the bajra field,” he said.
He added that the accused kicked and punched his sister on her neck, back and legs leading to serious injuries. She bit her tongue off while resisting the attackers, he said. She was later found unconscious by her mother.
“Mother went looking for her after she went missing around 9:45 am and found her chappal. At first she couldn’t understand what happened, it looked like our sister was bitten by a snake,” the brother said. “Initially, we had registered an attempt to murder complaint,” he added.
He said in their remote village, Boolgarhi of Hathras district, there are only two Dalit households. “It’s a small village, there are around 200 households. The area is dominated by Thakurs and Pandits,” he said.
“Sandeep harasses women and is an alcoholic. He had harassed our sister before too and warned her that if she tells anyone about it, they will shoot her,” the brother said.
Earlier, the woman’s uncle had said, “Till when will Dalits be subjugated and tortured like this? It is known that they wanted to send a message,” he said.