No ‘containment zone’ for Rajput caste panchayat in Hathras to malign the Dalit victim

Thakurs in Hathras continue to proclaim innocence of four accused of raping Dalit woman and inflicting injuries leading to her death. The woman was killed by Dalits themselves, they maintain

Photo Courtesy: Twitter/ @ndtv
Photo Courtesy: Twitter/ @ndtv

Ranjona Banerji

How shocked we are. A horrific gangrape with extreme violence that leads to death. The venue: Hathras, Uttar Pradesh. The victim: a 19-year-old Dalit woman. The accused: four upper-caste men.

Of course, in typical manner, we didn’t even pay attention when it happened. Oh no, we were so busy with vilifying another young woman in the search for “justice” for a much-loved young actor who from all accounts died by suicide.

The woman from Hathras also died. Her injuries were terrible, from a hacked tongue to a broken spine. Now we were outraged. But not just by the violence. We were also shocked that people actually focused on the fact that the woman was Dalit and the men she accused upper caste Thakurs. How dare this violation of womanhood be further qualified by caste discrimination. We are upset because we feel for all women, the “daughters of India”. Do not bring caste into it. Like I did in the first paragraph.

Did you feel like that? Did you feel that the cause of your sense of outrage has been lessened by the caste question? That the “daughters of India” need to be protected by collective outrage?

There have been many, many horrific rapes since that of the woman called “Nirbhaya” in December 2012, that angered us so much as a society. Eight years ago, people marched, politicians and the police exposed their faultlines and then buckled down to work. Exemplary justice was done and seen to be done – by Indian standards that is. And some politicians made huge electoral capital out of the unspeakably brutal gangrape of a young woman on a cold night in India’s national capital.

But now this is UP, which has as chief minister a temple priest as well as a Hindutva troublemaker. Law and order under his lack of governance is as bad as can be imagined. However, as he belongs to the larger Sangh Parivar or Hindutva ideology, although not the BJP per se, he is lauded as a great success.

And therefore, in spite of the national anger, the UP administration has stuck fast to its strategy, used before so effectively in the 2017 Unnao rape case, where the accused was protected for being a BJP leader, although eventually Kuldeep Sengar was convicted. But not before the victim’s father was killed in police custody, she was severely injured in a mysterious traffic accident where she lost two family members and finally, she was burned alive a year after being raped while on the way to court, by five men including two of the accused. That was also Uttar Pradesh, under Yogi Adityanath also known as Ajay Mohan Bisht, in case you missed that.

In Hathras, with the world watching, the UP administration carried on with its aim to discredit the victim and her family and protect the accused. And dare I mention the caste angle once again. Unless you live your life with your head buried in Bal Narendra comics 20 feet underground, you know that an age-old form of oppression by any form of supremacist group is the violation of the women of the community you want to control. Therefore, when four upper-caste men gangrape and brutalise a Dalit woman, you acknowledge it. Because it also explains the behaviour of the administration, in destroying all norms of justice to save the upper caste accused.

The family was threatened, the woman’s body was burnt by the police in the dead of the night while the family was locked up, the media was threatened, the police and local administration harangued the woman’s family to withdraw their accusations. All this in full public view, while Bisht in one of those terrible ironies pretended to do a Mahatma Gandhi act on a spinning wheel for publicity and even got that all wrong. Bisht belongs to the ideology that murdered Gandhi in case you’ve forgotten.

Opposition politicians like Rahul Gandhi and Derek O’Brien were beaten up by the UP police and stopped from going to Hathras, which was barricaded by the police to stop all ingress. In between, Prime Minister Narendra Modi apparently spoke to Bisht. Whatever he actually told him, Bisht’s administration carried on with its violent destruction of jurisprudence and democracy. And so did Modi’s central government by stopping all protests at Delhi’s India Gate.

And I haven’t even mentioned Kathua rape. Remember that one? Bring on the outrage. But spare us the hypocrisy about “India’s daughters”.

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