Hathras gang-rape just another instance of Dalit women being victims of targeted violence

As per NCRB, nearly ten Dalit women are raped every day in the country, with Uttar Pradesh recording one of the highest numbers, though the data brought to light is only about reported cases

Hathras gang-rape just another instance of Dalit women being victims of targeted violence
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Krishna Jha/IPA

Untouched by the horror the 19-year-old girl went through before dying, amidst waves of anger and discontent among people against inaction of the state government, a conspiracy theory is floated. The course is settled. Finance capital has been making moves to cover its steps. With 21 FIRs, and still more coming against any protest, the attempt is to take the conspiracy theory to a level of frenzy, making it easier to crush the opposition, gag the media.

The incident that was called ‘shocking’ and ‘unprecedented’ by the Supreme Court took place in a village called Boolgarhi, in Hathras town of Uttar Pradesh. A 19-year-old Dalit girl was attacked by four men from upper caste. They tore at her, raped and cracked her neck when she tried to escape from the extreme humiliation. They splintered her spine also. Finally they left her groaning and devastated. It was September 11, 2020. Her family took her to the police station, but she was in no condition to make a statement. Stunned, she needed time to fathom what happened to her. They said it was her ‘drama’, but then she even took her last breath playing the act, taking their sarcasm to the ultimate.

Some of the ruling party functionaries in the state made a video, which was illegal as exposing a victim is against law, and tried to prove that she was not molested, since she did not speak, but the transcription of her statement to the magistrate leaves no confusion. They had taken advantage of her being a Dalit, that made her vulnerable, and then they had taken advantage of her being a woman… a crime in practice for centuries.

On September 22, she made her dying statement in front of a magistrate, which said she was raped, assaulted brutally. She even named all the four accused. On September 29, she succumbed to the injuries inflicted on her.

The news spread like wild fire, dominating the scene, and not allowing the curtain to be drawn. The authorities in Uttar Pradesh stood like a wall to protect the culprits. The opposition, while trying to visit the family in the village was manhandled. Let loose, police acted on their own free will, refusing to accept each of the crime committed. The body of the girl was brought in the early hours of the night she breathed her last, her family was not allowed to see her, instead they were locked from outside in their house, with constables standing guard. There were no last rites, not even something clean even to cover her. They just poured petrol, and set her afire in her final journey. A life which was spent in only anguish and deprivation, was brought to end in the same way. “She wanted to be home,” said her mother while sobbing. Even while cremating her, they did not seek the family’s permission.

But that was not the end. Police fortified the village with hundreds of security personnel. Despite all these measures, inhuman crimes committed against a helpless girl could not be suppressed.

The context of caste, as the girl was Dalit and the accused were upper caste, Thakurs, made it easy to guess why they were so diligently protected. But then it was also true that despite the attempts to cover up, the crime became a blot on the government’s record leaving no room to prove it otherwise.

The BJP government has handed over the case to the Central Bureau of Investigation, but the family knows better. They want a judicial enquiry.

It may be observed here that the BJP had taken the stand from the beginning that there was no rape involved. But the forensic report that denied it was itself based on samples taken after eleven days of the crime.

Also under the law of the country, the woman’s words were enough for confirming and convicting. Barely 24 hours after the remains of the 19-year-old-Dalit woman were consigned to flames by the police in Hathras, another glaring case of a crime, similar to the same, of rape and killing, was repeated. This time it was a 22-year-old Dalit woman from Balrampur, in the same state.

Such crimes are not isolated, they are fast becoming all-pervasive. Especially the Dalit women, at the lowest depths in the society, in terms of caste, class and gender, go through cruel discrimination but also become victims of targeted violence.

As per the National Crime Records Bureau, 2019, nearly ten Dalit women are raped every day in the country, with Uttar Pradesh recording one of the highest numbers, though the data brought to light is only about reported cases. More often, the reporting is not available in such cases due to fear of revenge from ‘dominant’ castes. In Hathras too, police was reluctant as the accused were from the high caste. The ruling party refused to accept that Boolgarh village had any practice of caste-based discrimination, but there is untouchability glaringly visible.

The question that is raised from various platforms in the country is who is having the reigns in hands? Why some have unrestrained freedom to violate all the norms legally protecting Dalit women’s dignity and rights? The question also gives rise to a robust refusal to accept the injustices inflicted thus.

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