New Delhi: A massive protest erupted in Delhi Friday evening as a number of civil society activists, students, women and political leaders gathered at Jantar Mantar against the alleged gangrape of a young woman in Hathras district and the UP government's response to it.
Wearing masks and raising slogans against the UP administration, they demanded justice for the 19-year-old victim and asked Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath to resign.
The protest was to be held at India Gate initially but had to shifted to Jantar Mantar owing to the prohibitory orders in place in the Rajpath area. Several political leaders, including from the Aam Aadmi Party and the Left, joined the protest.
Most of them said they were outraged over the way UP police cremated the body of the victim, who died in Delhi's Safdarjung Hospital, a fortnight after she was allegedly raped by four upper caste men.
The woman's family has alleged that the police forced them to conduct the last rites in the dead of the night. But local police officers have said the cremation was carried out "as per the wishes of the family".
"What is happening in UP is goondaraj," lawyer-activist Prashant Bhushan said. "The police have surrounded the village, are not allowing opposition leaders and mediapersons to enter it and have taken away the mobile phones of the family members of the victim."
Bollywood actor Swara Bhaskar, Bhim Army chief Chandrasekhar Azad, AAP MLA Saurabh Bhardwaj, Left leaders Prakash Karat and Sitaram Yechury also attended the protest.
Swaraj India leader Yogendra Yadav said the Hathras incident "brings out the complete breakdown of anything called rule of law".
"It's not just that a rape happened, or that she was killed which is worse. There is a political patronage right from the beginning... The Uttar Pradesh administration is out there to ensure that this news doesn't come out."
Yadav alleged that the family was denied even a decent cremation for the victim, which even criminals are entitled to.
Calling what happened a "shutdown of democracy", he said, "The UP government has no basis to exist anymore''.
Azad demanded that a fast-track court be set up to hear the case daily.
"The culprits should be punished as soon as possible so that others get scared before committing such crimes. We will go to Hathras and till the time the matter doesn't come to Delhi, there is no chance of getting justice," he said.
Bhaskar said people from different groups have gathered at Jantar Mantar, which shows how enraged people are. "It is time we start fighting against the rape epidemic. Today, we are standing against it here and we have to win," she added.