On Tuesday, the 19-year-old Dalit woman who had been assaulted and allegedly raped by four upper caste men in Uttar Pradesh’s Hathras on September 14 succumbed to her injuries in a Delhi hospital.
In the early hours of Wednesday, the Uttar Pradesh police took the victim’s body to her village and forcibly cremated it over her family’s protestations. “Police barricaded the family inside their home and burnt the body without letting anybody know,” tweeted India Today reporter Tanushree Pandey.
“It appears that my sister has been cremated. The police are not telling us anything. We begged them to let us bring her body inside the house one last time, but they didn’t listen to us,” the victim’s brother the Indian Express at around 3.30 am.
ANI, the otherwise omnipresent news agency, was missing from the theatre of action. The BJP-friendly outlet put out only one tweet on the forced cremation, a statement by Hathras joint magistrate Prem Prakash Meena at 3.44 am from the ANI UP handle.
ANI did not tweet updates on the forced cremation or the unrest against it in the victim’s village. Updates from the ground came only in the morning.
On Wednesday, the Indian Express carried a ground report on the case front and centre. It noted that protests had broken out in Delhi and UP against sexual assaults on women.
However, the Times of India and the Dainik Jagran – the country’s most read dailies in English and Hindi, respectively – underplayed the news of the woman’s death on Wednesday.
TOI Lucknow’s lead story was the verdict on the Babri Masjid demolition case, just above a ground report from Ayodhya.
A story on late actor Sushant Singh Rajput’s death was more prominently placed. Below and beside this was the headline, “19-yr-old Hathras girl dies at Delhi hospital”.
Interestingly, TOI’s Delhi edition covered the Hathras case front and centre.
Jagran did not even place the story above the fold. A statement by Prime Minister Narendra Modi about the opposition was given preference alongside the main story on the Sino-Indian border tensions.
With most of the frontpage occupied by advertisements, the headline ‘Gangrape victim from Hathras dies’ appeared in the bottom half of the page.
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