A video of a BJP leader from Uttar Pradesh’s Barabanki casting aspersions on the integrity of 19-year-old Dalit woman who was allegedly gang-raped in Hathras and subsequently died in a Delhi hospital is akin to chucking salt into the wounds of the aggrieved family.
Ranjeet Srivastava, 67, a former chairman of Nawabganj Nagar Palika (municipality), denied that there was a rape and questioned why “such women” are found in millet fields only. The Dalit woman was allegedly raped when she had gone to collect fodder with her mother in a field.
“I think usually in such situations when girls are found in millet fields, they usually have an affair. This girl must have called her boyfriend to the fields,” Srivastava is both heard and seen saying it on the video, which has since gone viral on social media. The BJP has so far maintained a studied silence on his remarks.
“Yes, the video you are talking about is indeed by me. Several other videos of mine are running in various news channels,” he said.
A father of three sons, with one of them being a member of UP BJP’s youth wing, Srivastava on being asked about the reference to ‘aisi ladkiyan bajre ke khet main hi kyun paayi jaati hai (why are such girls found in millet fields only)’, Srivastava said, “I haven’t spoken of all the girls as many are believing. I merely said, ‘iss tarah ki ladkiyan’ (such girls)’,” he said.
Asked what he meant by “iss tarah ki ladkiyan”, he said, “jis tarah ki wo ladki thee (the kind of girl that she was),” before giving an elaborate, laboured explanation of his ‘understanding’ of the situation that he maintained was largely driven by ‘social media’.
Questioned further if it is okay to take social media seriously on an incident as barbaric as this, he said, “I have also made a statement on social media. Then why are you giving so much importance to it.”
“See the point I am making is that one has to rely on circumstantial evidence, where there is no evidence. So I am asking, on the basis of what has been reported, both in local papers as well as in social media, as to what was this girl (referring to the victim), doing in millet fields? Because initial reports suggested that she had gone with her mother to cut grass but then millet fields have no grass. But, just assuming there was grass in the millet field in which she had gone, then please remember that millet fields aren’t very dense. If she had sensed danger, she should have raised an alarm, instead of surrendering. And if whatever act she was allegedly subjected to against her will, then there must have been some sign of struggle, which clearly there is not.”
In between these remarks, he kept on saying, “khair ab to jaanch ho hi rahi hai… (now, an inquiry is on anyway)”. A special investigation team has been constituted to probe the incident, the deadline to submit its report was extended by another 10 days today. A CBI inquiry in the case has been recommended.
“Initially the FIR didn’t mention rape? Why? Let me explain this. That’s because had rape been mentioned in the FIR, then her medical examination would have been necessary. So whatever the medical examination must have happened was primarily to verify the physical assault, not rape. The rape part emerged in the FIR lodged by a Congress leader, eight days after the incident,” he said.
The BJP leader also refused to agree to the dying declaration made by the victim. “I don’t think her statement on rape before her death can be taken as dying declaration simply because a dying declaration has to be made before the magistrate, which I don’t think had been done, so how can it be termed dying declaration,” he said.
“All this is planned, part of the opposition game plan to discredit our party’s government,” he said.
The Yogi Adityanath government is fighting severe criticism for its handling of the case, particularly after the local police burnt the woman’s body at night without the family’s approval. However, officials said the cremation was done “as per the wishes of the family”.
Quoting an FSL report, the government has denied denied the rape charge and claimed that some people were trying to foment caste tensions in the aftermath of the incident. Four men from the so-called “upper caste” have been arrested in the incident.
Facing a battering to its image, the Uttar Pradesh government on Tuesday told the Supreme Court that it wanted an apex court-monitored CBI inquiry into the Hathras episode, which the SC described as “horrible”.