New Delhi: Hathras District Magistrate Praveen Kumar Laxkar has been hogging the limelight for all the wrong reasons, since the 19-year-old Dalit woman who was allegedly gangraped by four men in Uttar Pradesh’s Hathras district, a fortnight ago, succumbed to her injuries in Delhi. Also Read - SP Objects to Use of Red, Green Tiles in Railway Hospital Toilet, Calls it Insult to Party Flag

Earlier on Saturday, Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, who met the victim’s family yesterday listed their demands, which also included the suspension of the DM. “Hathras DM must be suspended and not given a big post”, the family has demanded, asking why their daughter’s body was burnt using petrol without their permission. Also Read - Two Men Cheat UK-Returned Doctor, Sell Him ‘Aladdin ka Chirag’ For Rs 2.5 Cr in Meerut

Notably, the victim was cremated in the dead of the night early Wednesday with family members alleging they were forced by police to hurriedly conduct the last rites. “The cremation was done around 2.30-3 in the morning,” her father told PTI. Her post-mortem report of the victim stated that she suffered a fracture of the “C6 cervical vertebra” and there were “extravasations of blood along the fracture line” and the underlying spinal cord was “contused with ascending edema”. All the four accused in the incident have been arrested.

So, Why is the DM mired in controversy? Why there is a growing demand for his suspension?

The family members of the victim have leveled serious allegations against Laxkar, including harassment and intimidation. Laxkar, who hails from Rajasthan’s capital city Jaipur, has allegedly told the victim’s family that they would not have received Rs 25 lakh ex-gratia from the Yogi Adityanath-led government if their daughter had died of COVID-19.

It has also been reported that it was district magistrate Praveen Laxkar who ordered the cremation of the victim late night.

He was also caught on camera, issuing a veiled threat and pressurizing family to change their statement. “Half of the media people have left today, the other half will leave by tomorrow. Only we will stand with you. It is up to you whether you want to change your statement or not”, DM Laxkar told the girl’s father in the video, shared by Congress general secretary Randeep Singh Surjewala.

“Listen to what the DM of Hathras told the girl’s father. ‘The media is here today, they will leave tomorrow. They will all go away. Listen to the government.’ Shame. Is this a threat or not?” the Congress leader had asked, sharing the video.

However, Laxkar has quashed reports surrounding his interaction with the family, news agency ANI reported.

“I met with six family members of the victim yesterday and we spoke for about an hour and a half. I met with them again today to see their point of discontent. I deny the negative rumours which are rife about my interactions with them,” he had said.

“Their main point of apprehension is that the convicted must be punished and be hanged to death. I tried to allay their fears and told them that the matter would be tried in a fast track court,” he added.

On the other hand, a boy who claimed to be a relative of the deceased woman alleged that the district magistrate has assaulted his uncle, when he tried to speak to the media.

“My family members are being threatened. My uncle asked me to try to reach out to the media. My uncle was assaulted by DM sahib, after which he fell unconscious”, the boy had claimed.

Opposition parties have also demanded the suspension of DM. Earlier on Friday, the UP government suspended Hathras Superintendent of Police and four other policemen but no action was taken against Laxkar.

“The chief minister suspended a few police officials but the real culprit is the DM. He had threatened the family members. Why is CM trying to save the culprit DM, when will CM take action against the big official who ordered the cremation of the victim late night?”Samajwadi Party spokesperson asked.

Retired IAS officers have also raised questions on the DM. “In case of crime and law & order, the officers need to strictly go by the law. Each officer should know that except ‘honourable’ exceptions, overindulgence to “please” someone doesn’t pay in the long run, perhaps in the short run as well,” former School Education Secretary Anil Swarup said a tweet.

He also stated that it was not the job of DMs to make statements or give suggestions to those that were traumatised.

“It was the time to be empathetic and provide succour instead of advising families of the victim what they should do. The DM failed to appreciate his role in the follow up of a crime committed,” Swarup added.

Former chief election commissioner Dr SY Quraishi had also lambasted Laxkar for ‘threatening’ family members of the Dalit girl. “Shameful conduct of DM. He is a disgrace to service”, said the former CEC, reacting to the video of the DM, wherein he was allegedly ‘threatening’ family members.