New Delhi: A 20-year-old woman, gang-raped and tortured by four men in Uttar Pradesh’s Hathras two weeks ago, died this morning at a hospital in Delhi. The woman had suffered multiple fractures, paralysis and a deep gash in her tongue in the savage assault compared by many to the 2012 Nirbhaya gang-rape.

Injuries to her neck had left her paralysed and struggling to breathe, said doctors. She bit her tongue when her attackers were trying to strangle her.

According to her brothers, even in that critical state, all she wanted was to go home and had said it often in hospital.

News of her death led to protests outside the hospital with the Bhim Army of Chandrashekhar Azad “Raavan” blocking roads for hours and protesters chanting “hang the rapists”. On social media, there has been an outpouring of grief and anger from politicians, celebrities and others.

All four attackers, upper caste men from the woman’s village, are in jail. They will now also be charged with murder.

The woman was attacked on September 14 at her village in Hathras, some 200 km from Delhi. In her statement to the police, she said she was dragged by her dupatta into the fields from a spot where she had been cutting grass with her mother and brother.

“My mother, sister and elder brother had gone to a field to get some grass. My brother went home earlier with a large bundle of grass, while my mother and sister continued to cut them. The women were a little far from each other. Four-five people came from behind, threw my sister’s dupatta around her neck and dragged her inside the bajra field,” the woman’s brother told NDTV.

When the family searched, they found her in the fields, naked and bleeding, with horrific injuries. “My mother covered her up and we went to the police and lay her down there. Three bones on her neck were broken. She had difficulty breathing… She needed oxygen right from the beginning,” he said.

“They had raped her. The police did not help us initially… they did not take quick action. They acted only after four-five days,” he said, accusing the police of reacting only after public outrage.

The UP police is under scrutiny over alleged lapses throughout the case. They initially registered an attempted murder case but added rape charges only after the woman’s formal statement.

A senior cop suddenly declared today that the woman’s allegations of rape were not confirmed. “The medical examination did not reveal anything related to rape. We have asked for a forensic report. We have sent the samples to the Forensic Science Laboratory in Agra and are awaiting a report , it will be available soon,” said Aligarh Inspector General of Police, Piyush Mordia.

The family believes the attack was planned; the same men had beaten up members of the family earlier.

This morning, the woman’s brothers alleged more lapses by the police.

“We were told that she would be taken to AIIMS but she was taken to Safdarjung,” one of them told reporters. They also sat on protest alleging that her body had been taken away without their permission.

The Uttar Pradesh police has denied the family’s allegation of slow response. “This is a very unfortunate incident but we have been proactive in making arrests and helping the family in whatever manner possible . I will personally ensure swift investigation and that these men are tried in a fast track court,” Hathras police chief Vikrant Vir had told NDTV in an interview on Sunday.

UP’s ruling BJP has been attacked by the Congress, Samajwadi Party and the Aam Aadmi Party. “The Hathras gang-rape is a matter of shame for the nation,” said Arvind Kejriwal, Chief Minister of Delhi.

Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra tweeted, targeting UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath: “You are accountable for the safety of women in UP”.

Responding to the criticism, UP minister Siddharth Nath Singh said: “The incident is very saddening. Our government stands with the victim’s family. Investigation started immediately and four accused have been arrested. Strict action will be taken. The law will take its course.”

This story first appeared in NDTV on September 29, 2020 here