Facing a battering to its image, the Uttar Pradesh government on Tuesday told the Supreme Court that it wanted an apex court-monitored Central Bureau of Investigation inquiry into the Hathras episode, which the SC described as 'horrible'.
The day also marked the first visit by a Union minister to the Hathras village of the 19-year-old Dalit woman who was allegedly gang-raped by four upper-caste men on September 14 and died a fortnight later at a Delhi hospital.
'I and RPI workers across the country will make all possible efforts to bring justice to the family of the victim,' tweeted Ramdas Athawale, who heads the Republican Party of India-A and is a Dalit leader.
A delegation of the Communist Party of India-Marxist and the Communist Party of India also met the family, the latest in a series of visits by opposition leaders to the Uttar Pradesh village about 150 km from the national capital.
Police arrested four people in Mathura the previous night while they were on their way to Hathras, alleging that they were linked to the Popular Front of India (PFI), an organisation accused by the state government of fomenting violence over the Citizenship Amendment Act.
A journalists' body, however, said one of the men arrested is its office-bearer and was heading to Hathras as part of his professional duties.
The Kerala Union of Working Journalists (KUWJ) sent a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi seeking Sidhique Kappan's release and also filed a habeas corpus petition in the Supreme Court.
Hearing another petition related to the Hathras incident, the Supreme Court directed the UP government to inform it by October 8 about the steps taken to protect witnesses in the case.
The young woman was cremated in the middle of the night in her village and the hurried funeral allegedly without the family's consent had triggered further outrage.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing in the SC for the UP government, said, "Narratives after narratives being spread in Hathras case, this needs to be stopped."
The CBI probe will ensure no vested interests will be able to create fake, false narrative with oblique motives, Mehta told the bench of Chief Justice S A Bobde and Justices A S Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian.
"A young innocent girl has lost her life, but nobody should sensationalise it. Investigation should be fair, appear fair."
While raising questions about the locus of an unconnected party in a criminal case, the bench observed, "We are not saying anything about the incident.
"The incident is horrible, shocking and extraordinary, but how can we hear identical arguments by so many lawyers."
In Hathras, police registered an FIR against former BJP MLA Rajvir Singh Pehelwan and 100 unnamed people over a meeting defying prohibitory orders. The event last Sunday had attracted flak after it criticised the victim's family, alleging that they were changing their statements.
At a meeting of its newly appointed national office-bearers chaired by party president J P Nadda on Tuesday, the BJP targeted the opposition, saying it takes up cases selectively.
"It is sad when people pick a crime looking at who is in power and which community the murderers or rapists belong to, what is the vote bank there," general secretary Dushyant Kumar Gautam told reporters in an apparent attack on opposition parties.
The Opposition, however, continued to target the BJP government in Uttar Pradesh.
After meeting the victim's family, CPI-M general secretary Sitaram Yechury expressed shock over the alleged gangrape and the hurried cremation.
"These sort of things are unheard of in the 21st century and are a blatant violation of the Indian Constitution and the guarantees it gives to our people," he said.
The Left delegation included CPI general secretary D Raja, CPI-M politburo member Brinda Karat, CPI national secretary Amarjeet Kaur, CPI-M UP state committee secretary Hiralal Yadav and CPI UP state secretary Girish Sharma.
"If all the distractions and diversions being created by the UP CM are to delay or deny justice then it is not acceptable," Yechury said.
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi said UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath should have the decency to call the Hathras episode a tragedy, and referred to his own recent visit to the victim's village.
"Yogi ji is entitled to his opinion. He is more than welcome to imagine whatever he wants to imagine. What I saw there was that a lovely girl was molested, her neck was broken, her family was threatened and the people who did it, no action was taken against them," he said.
"If Yogi ji sees it as an international conspiracy, well that is fine, that is his prerogative. What I saw was a tragedy," Gandhi told reporters in Punjab's Patiala district, where he led a tractor rally against the new farm laws.