Rahul Gandhi and sister Priyanka Gandhi have set off on foot to meet the family of Hathras gangrape victim after the Uttar Pradesh Police stopped them at Yamuna Expressway, citing imposition of Section 144, which prohibits assembly of four or more people.
Congress workers milled around the two leaders as Rahul Gandhi, his face mask on, led the march, with Priyanka, who was recently retained as general secretary in charge of Uttar Pradesh, right behind him. Scores of reporters and people were seen clicking pictures of the two leaders as they went about their padyatra under the October sun.
The 19-year-old Dalit woman, who died in a Delhi hospital on Tuesday a fortnight after she was gang-raped at Hathras while she was out to collect fodder with her mother, was cremated in the early hours of Wednesday, with her family alleging the local police forced them to conduct the last rites in the dead of the night.
Union minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi urged the opposition to not increase the tension through “political tourism”, and said the state government is working to punish the criminals for their “barbarism”. The minister, however, did not name any party.
“Those who are trying to increase the tension through political tourism, should not do that. Everyone is saddened and want punishment for the culprits, Uttar Pradesh govt is working towards it. You will see the results soon,” Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, minority affairs minister was quoted as saying by the news agency ANI.
Congress workers have blocked five lanes of the Delhi-Noida side of the flyway by squatting on the road.
Manoj Chaudhry, Gautam Budh Nagar Congress president, said the party workers have gathered to demand justice for the rape and murder victim.
Members of Dalit groups and activists alleged that the early morning cremation was done to prevent any mobilisation or protests in the village. “The whole world is watching how the government and the police together cremated our sister in the absence of her family. I have been taken into custody and put under house arrest in Saharanpur; but we will continue to fight,” said Chandrasekhar Azad, chief of the Bhim Army, who had led protests outside Delhi’s Safdarjung Hospital on Tuesday.
Amid nationwide outrage and calls for his resignation, state chief minister Yogi Adityanath on Wednesday spoke to the family via video-link. The chief minister has said a fast-track court will handle the case for speedy justice. The special investigation team has been constituted to probe the matter and asked to submit its report within seven days.
“The CM has spoken to the father of the deceased woman of Hathras. Her father asked for harshest penalty against the accused. The CM assured him that the most stringent action shall be taken against the accused and all possible help shall be provided to the family of the deceased,” Additional Chief Secretary (Home) Awanish Kumar Awasthi said yesterday.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi also spoke to the CM and asked him to ensure strict action against the accused.