The Allahabad High Court asked the district magistrate a pointed question while hearing a petition on the conduct of the police in cremating the 19-year-old victim of the gang-rape and assault in the middle of the night in Hathras.
“What if the girl had been from a rich family? Would you have cremated her the same way,” the court asked Praveen Kumar, the district magistrate, who said, he, along with police officers, had taken the decision to cremate the body in the dead of night — at 2.30 am on September 29.
That argument could, perhaps, be extended to the security being provided to the Dalit family of the victim, as it cooperates with the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) despite threats from upper castes whose four members have been arrested for the alleged assault.
Related News: Let SC monitor the Hathras CBI probe, UP urges court
The state government has told the Supreme Court that the family and witnesses in the case have been given a three-ring security to ensure a ‘free and fair investigation.’ There will be CCTV cameras as part of the security ring. Then there will also be the armed constabulary and civil police components of the Uttar Pradesh police.
But what if the family had been rich? What if someone from the family had had the same stature as Kangana Ranaut? Would it then have got protection from central agencies or a force better than the UP police?
Kangana was given Y-Plus security — 11 commandos from the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) protected her round the clock — after she complained of threat to life.
The Hathras family received threats openly, in the presence of senior district and police officials no less. But it gets the protection of the very police that had locked up the parents and brothers of the 19-year-old victim to prevent them from taking part in the cremation, had refused to file an FIR initially and had made the mother of the victim sit on the floor when she had gone to get the FIR registered.
Its officials had termed the injuries suffered by the victim as ‘drama’ and, according to the family, police officers and even the district magistrate had warned them against continuing with the case. It is the same force that had prevented journalists and others from entering the village to find out the facts of the incident.
The UP police had filed a case against the leader of a Dalit outfit who had visited the family, saying he had violated a ban on large gathering imposed in view of COVID. They, however, did nothing against the upper caste men who had also assembled in large numbers to protest against the leader’s visit and who had threatened the family.
Will the family feel comfortable under the constant gaze of such a force? Can it feel secure under the UP police? Will it be able to sleep peacefully in the protection of officials who cremated the victim in the dead of the night? Would things have been different if they had been rich?