New Delhi October 01:

Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra plan to visit Hathras in Uttar Pradesh today to meet the family of the 20-year-old woman who died after being gang-raped and tortured and whose dead-of-night cremation by the UP police has provoked nationwide outrage. However, the visit may soon escalate into a face-off; the Congress leaders may find it tough to enter Hathras with the administration banning large gatherings, putting up barricades and sealing the borders citing the coronavirus.

The ban has been in place since September 1 and has been extended to October 31, an officer said. Since morning, the media has been barred from the woman’s village. A senior official claimed several policemen had shown Covid symptoms.

The young woman died on Tuesday at a hospital in Delhi. She had suffered multiple fractures, paralysis and had been left struggling to breathe by a neck injury when she was assaulted by four upper caste men from her village on September 14. The police said there was a gash in her tongue because she had bitten it when the men were trying to strangle her.

To add to the family’s pain, the UP police took away her body, drove to her village in Hathras and cremated the body forcibly, with the family locked in their home. The woman’s parents had begged to be allowed to take her body back home and perform the last rite the following morning.

The woman was cremated at 2.30 am with only a few policemen around and no family member. The UP police’s rush to cremate the body was seen to be a desperate attempt to cover-up what has been a string of lapses in the case.

The woman’s family alleged that the police had been slow to respond to their complaint and the administration had been negligent because they belong to the Dalit or underprivileged castes.

The incident has drawn public anger and the UP government of Yogi Adityanath has come under attack from the opposition over recent crimes against women.

Congress MP Rahul Gandhi said: “All this is a shameful move of the UP government to suppress the Dalits and show them their ”place” in the society. Our fight is against this hateful thinking.” Rahul Gandhi was an MP from Uttar Pradesh for three terms until he lost in his family stronghold Amethi last year.

His sister Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, who has the task of rebuilding the Congress in UP, said Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath had “no moral right” to continue in office.

In a series of tweets, Priyanka Gandhi said she had been on the phone with the woman’s father when he learnt of her death. “I was on the phone with the Hathras victim’s father when he was informed that his daughter had passed away. I heard him cry out in despair,” tweeted the Congress general secretary.

Last year, Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi were stopped from entering Meerut in UP to meet the families of people killed in violent protests against the amended citizenship law. The police had cited Section 144, or a ban on gatherings, which is now in place in Hathras.

In December, Priyanka Gandhi accused the UP police of manhandling her in Lucknow to stop her from going to the house of a retired police officer arrested over the citizenship protests. When her car was stopped, she even rode pillion with a Congress worker to try and reach the house. Before that, in July, the Congress leader was stopped from visiting Sonbhadra where 10 people were shot dead in a village. Priyanka Gandhi then sat on a protest for hours.