New Delhi: Questions are being raised about the role played by a senior bureaucrat and the decisions taken by him in the Hathras rape case, which included the cremating the body of the victim at night and cordoning off the entire village to stop the media from reaching her family.

The Sunday Guardian spoke to several officials and individuals who are aware of these developments, to understand the circumstances that led to the present situation.

According to them, the imprudent decision to cremate the body of the victim at 3.30 a.m., in a state like Uttar Pradesh, where religious customs are given a lot of importance, was taken by this bureaucrat in order to ensure that the “matter does not become big”. Four sources, official and non-official, confirmed that the decision to cremate the body in the early hours of 30 September was taken at the highest level of the bureaucracy, without taking permission from the Chief Minister’s Office (CMO).

“The CMO was not informed about this”, a top government official source said, when asked whether the CM was informed about the cremation taking place. While responding to The Sunday Guardian’s query of how, in an administration which is run with an iron hand by the CM, such a rash decision was allowed to be executed, the official stated that the officer concerned had the trust of the CM and since the officer himself was monitoring the case, the CM, at a personal level was not involved at the time. The Sunday Guardian reached out to the officials handling the media queries intended for the CM, but no response was received.

“This particular officer has developed this trait of engaging with a few select journalists in Noida and Lucknow and would not entertain other journalists even if they contacted him for journalistic queries. This has been going on for some time now. This official’s arrogance has come back to bite him, the CM’s image became the collateral damage”, a Lucknow based senior journalist said, while referring to the criticism that Adityanath has been facing even from his own party. “You cannot blame the media even if they are ‘targeting’ the government for the mishandling by one officer,” the journalist said.

The 19-year-old girl was gang-raped—a charge which the UP administration has been denying—and brutally assaulted on 14 September at Boolagarhi village, Chandapa police station, Hathras 180 km from the national capital. As per police statement, the girl made the statement about being raped by four individuals only on 22 September, eight days after she was admitted at Jawaharlal Nehru Medical College and Hospital in Aligarh, after which the gynaecological and forensic examination was done on the same day. She passed away on 29 September in Delhi. Her autopsy report states that she died due to injury to cervical spine by indirect blunt trauma.

The consensus, among those who follow UP politics and the working of the BJP government in the state, is that the pro-administrative image of Adityanath, which he had developed by putting in a lot of effort, had been dented massively. “The Prime Minister had to call the Chief Minister to ensure justice is done. What else does one need to understand the seriousness of the issue?” the senior journalist commented.

Lucknow based BJP leaders stated that there was no doubt that serious administrative lapses had occurred but claimed that the mistakes were being “amplified” by some party leaders to ensure that Adityanath’s image was severely dented. “His handling of Covid-19 has been exemplary and the way he has acted against gangsters and their political lobby has led to a lot of resentment among many political entities. The Hathras incident is being used by some leaders against him,” a BJP functionary told The Sunday Guardian.