Rediff.com
Print this article

'Look, the girl has been murdered'

October 14, 2020 11:45 IST

'So why didn't the police make it very clear that this is the line of investigation, this is what we are doing.'
'Nobody knows what kind of report was done.'
'Was she checked for (sexual assault)?'

IMAGE: Uttar Pradesh police personnel at the funeral of the Hathras victim in Hathras, 2.30 am, September 29-30, 2020. Photograph: ANI Photo

"You should have been brave enough to face the music; yes, you have made the mistake when she was alive, but at least you could have given her a dignified cremation even if that meant handling a law and order situation later," retired Indian Police Service officer Yashovardhan Azad -- who served as a special director, Intelligence Bureau -- tells Prasanna D Zore/Rediff.com in the concluding segment of two part interview about the Hathras, Uttar Pradesh, case where a 19-year-old Dalit teenager was allegedly gang-raped and assaulted on September 14, 2020. She died in a Delhi hospital on September 29.

 

What measures should the UP government take to protect the witnesses in this case?

You could do so many things. In the Delhi riots cases, they kept the names (of victims and eyewitnesses) as alpha, beta, and gamma. If you feel any witness is valuable, keep them very safe, keep them away.

Don't name them in the chargesheet; give them pseudonyms. There are so many things you can do. This is a very simple thing.

The most important three measures that should be taken by the UP government for protecting the witnesses in this case...

Witness protection theme is again a stylish term used in the United States of America. That is used for very highly sensitive cases, for example, in terrorist cases, the victims/witnesses in special trial will be brought separately so that their identities remain secret.

And if they are from sensitive areas, then they are brought over, rehabilitated separately under pseudonyms and given different identities and covers, etc.

You don't even have to go to that extent in India, but you can always manage it by giving them the requisite protection.

Giving them a separate identity and keeping them away absolutely frozen and in a kind of a crucible for those days till the trial is over or until you feel that they are safe is important.

The accused in the case now allege that the victim's family killed the girl.

Look, the girl has been murdered. So why didn't the police make it very clear that this is the line of investigation which is going and this is what we are doing.

They didn't do anything that day; nobody even knows what kind of report was done; was she checked for (sexual assault)?

What was the MLC (medico-legal examination) report?

What happened when she was in the hospital? Nothing has come out of that.

The things that have come to light are that she was attacked on the 14th and then on 19th the FIR was recorded and then on the 22nd she made a statement to the magistrate. There's nothing else on record.

The SIT could have looked into it, but now the UP government has said they don't mind a CBI inquiry monitored by the Supreme Court.

On the other hand, regarding the cremation (of the girl at 2.30 am), yes, there must have been very credible information about the law and order situation being created the next morning and that's why they cremated her at night.

But if you have denied justice to a woman when she was alive, by treating her this way (cremating her at night), you should have had the courage to face the law and order situation and given her a dignified cremation and faced the law and order situation in the morning.

You should have been brave enough to face the music; yes, you have made the mistake when she was alive, but at least you could have given her a dignified cremation even if that meant handling a law and order situation later.

Your take on the criminal justice system in India as it exists today and how can it be made independent of the political executive.

India's broken criminal justice system is a huge, huge subject to discuss. Right from the investigation of the police, to the prosecution, to the trials, to the prison; there are so many things (wrong with the criminal justice system).

In India, of course, one of the major planks of police reforms should be that the investigation and investigators should be accountable to the courts and not to the political executive.

Let the law and order machinery be accountable to the CEO, who is the chief minister, but certainly not the investigation which is so integral to the criminal justice system.

IMAGE: Police personnel lathi charge Samajwadi Party workers as they demand justice for the Hathras victim outside Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Ajay Mohan Bisht's official residence in Lucknow, October 8, 2020. Photograph: ANI Photo

How can the district magistrate and superintendents of police be made accountable for their acts of commission and omission in cases like the Hathras gangrape?

There are ways and means of doing that but the only thing is nobody does anything about it. There are standing guidelines, there are stringent laws, there are standing orders from the state government that in the case of Dalit atrocities these, these, these things (specific guidelines and procedures) should happen but they don't do it. Now they suspended the SP for investigation but they did not suspend the district magistrate for law and order.

What could be the reason why the DM was not suspended?

They should have suspended the DM too because he is the head of law and order situation in the district.

The UP police now have arrested four people, including a journalist, two research scholars and the driver of the vehicle, on charges of sedition and UAPA. Is this a ploy to distract attention away from the heinous crime that happened under the watch of the UP government?

Maybe, maybe but there are two things you must know.

First, in situations like these, the Opposition parties are jumping (to take the credits). That is fine and it's been happening; it happens all over the world. That's okay.

But there are also nefarious elements, who pick these incidents out to their advantage either propagating their themes (ideologies) or disrupting the system.

Protest is alright, but it is unfair if the protest is aimed at only disrupting the system.

If you read about the PFI (the Popular Front of India), an Islamist organisation which came into existence after SIMI (the Students Islamic Movement of India) was banned -- it took five years to ban SIMI you will know that the PFI has been used for disruptions right from Karnataka, Kerala and other parts of India.

What can end violence based on gender, caste, religion?

The first most important thing, I feel, is education.

In India, the two things I would say, even as a policeman, are the most important are our expenditure on education and health as percentage of our GDP.

If you want a resurgent India, you need our women to be healthy and educated, because one woman, if you focus on one woman, there are five people who are impacted. That is a family. And that is where we have failed.

I think we talk about women empowerment; we talk about the top of the pyramid, but we don't talk about the base.

If the poor and Dalit women are given the education and empowerment things can certainly improve.

There are schemes like providing cycles to girls to go to school, and if you can give them uniforms or mid-day meals, then certainly we can move towards an equitable society.

In Tamil Nadu, that great actor-politician M G Ramachandran, he came out with a simple programme. You don't need brilliant, Harvard- and MIT- educated guys, you need people from the ground. And what did he (MGR) do? He started the mid-day meal scheme.

Today that mid-day scheme revolutionised education and brought girls to schools because all those little girls would go to school to have that meal, feel good; don't study, don't do anything.

Just the experience of a class; just going and having a meal; just going by cycle, going with your peers, just soaking in, breathing that environment educates you.

You seem so different. You feel empowered when you go to school and you come back and you speak a few lines. That is a very, very, powerful feeling.

If you give equal opportunities to the women, things will improve.

Feature Presentation: Aslam Hunani/Rediff.com

PRASANNA D ZORE