Punish the rapists & murderers of dalit women and other victims
Hold the Administration, Police and Political Nexus Accountable
Chief Minister of UP must resign for repeatedly failing to safeguard rights of women from marginalized communities in the state
3rd Oct, 2020: The brutal rape and murder of yet another dalit woman in Hathras, Uttar Pradesh has sent shock waves across the country. Tens of thousands of people have been taking to the streets, in the midst of a raging pandemic, seeking justice for the horrific crime. Deeply anguished and agitated, NAPM also joins the aggrieved family and everyone across the nation, mourning the 19-year-old young woman from the Valmiki community, who was mercilessly violated by four dominant caste men. We demand full protection for the family and stringent punishment not just to the rapists and murderers, but also accountability of the police-political nexus.
As has been reported widely, the four accused men from the dominant Thakur caste – Sandeep, Ravi, Lavkush and Ramu dragged the victim by her dupatta, gangraped and strangulated her, resulting in a deep cut on her tongue and a fracture in the spinal cord. Subsequently, she was denied adequate medical treatment and the local police tried to claim that she was “faking” her pain to “entrap the accused”! Upon her death, she was denied dignity yet again, as the Hathras police and the District administration locked up her grieving family and hurriedly cremated her in the middle of the night. Over the past few days, sections of the UP administration left no stone unturned in mishandling and misrepresenting the case, destroying crucial evidence and further humiliating and traumatising the family.
As the country started demanding justice for the Hathras survivor, news came in of a similar incident in Balrampur, UP where a 22-year-old B.Com student was gangraped and killed. In yet another atrocious crime, two days back, the body of a 14-year-old Dalit girl, bearing stab wounds and stone injuries on her head was found in Tiwaripur village, Bhadohi, UP. The police suspect that she was raped and killed subsequently. Similar incidents from Bulandshahr, Azamgarh and other places have been coming to light.
In the backdrop of a manuvadi state-society, the successive incidents point to a larger pattern in caste and gender violence under the BJP rule in U.P. According to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), out of the 51,824 cases of crime against Dalits, registered under the SC & ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act between 2009 and 2018, UP ranks first with 22.38% of total crimes. Of all crimes committed against Dalits, the highest are against Dalit women. Such crimes have steeply increased in recent times. NCRB data shows a 27.9% increase in crimes against Dalits, and a 20% increase in crimes against women, between 2016-19 in the state. Instead of safeguarding the rights of the vulnerable, the State and its institutions are shamelessly and consistently siding by the oppressors and granting them impunity. The UP CM has remained largely indifferent, as caste supremacists reign terror on oppressed caste people.
Similar patterns of violence and atrocities are noticeable in another BJP ruled state – the “model” state for some, the laboratory of Hindutva in reality – Gujarat. On 23rd September, Devji Maheswari, a lawyer from the Dalit community and a senior activist of the All India Backward and Minority Communities Employees Federation, was killed in Rapar (Kutch District) because of his Facebook posts that criticized Brahminism. As per the data of Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe Cell in Gujarat, the number of cases of atrocities against Dalits in the state have been rising each year since 2010. The number of cases of rape per year too has gone up, from 39 in 2010 to 108 cases in 2018. A total of 568 cases of atrocity against Dalits and 36 cases of rape have been registered till May this year in the state.
The worsening of caste and gender violence is the result of Hindutva’s political-ideological ascendancy at the national level and in these states. Ideologically, Hindutva upholds and valourizes Brahminical caste/gender inequalities and oppression. For example, in 2009, the current UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath quoted Manusmriti to argue against women’s reservations in Assembly and Parliament on the grounds that women ought always to be ‘kept under the control of men’. Despite all its rhetoric of ‘Beti Bachao’, BJP has been acting as a ‘Balatkari Bachao’ party in multiple instances.
The BJP projects itself as pro-Dalit but attacks Dalits mercilessly and relentlessly at societal and institutional levels. The institutional murder of Rohit Vemula and many other students, the Una floggings, the Hindutva violence at Bhima Koregaon and the vindictive arrests of progressive Dalit bahujan journalists, activists and intellectuals (e.g. Prashant Kanojia, Anand Teltumbde, Sudhir Dhawale, Adv Surendra Gadling, multiple arrests of Chandrashekar Azad) are cases in point. In Uttar Pradesh, Yogi Adityanath’s rule has enabled the caste consolidation of Thakurs, to which caste the Hathras murderers belong, by favoring them in government appointments as well as by recruiting them in private militias such as the Hindu Yuva Vahini.
The rise of Hindutva has also been marked by increasing authoritarianism and political control over the administration and police forces. The authoritarianism and pro-government approach of the police was and is on naked display in Hathras: the police tried to cover up a gruesome crime committed by Thakur men, did not allow the victim’s family to receive her dead body, and later declared Hathras a containment zone in order to prevent protests from breaking out.
The U.P. government has been one of the most authoritarian state governments of recent times, arresting anti-CAA dissenters, enabling arrests without FIRs, registering mass FIRs on thousands and particularly targeting muslims, bringing the police force in alignment with Hindutva through para recruitments. The Gujarat Police too has displayed similar traits. Devji Maheshwari’s murderers were arrested only after his wife fought back bravely and refused to accept his body unless the arrests were made.
NAPM stands in unflinching solidarity with all the families of survivors / victims of caste-based violence and demand the following:
• The rapists and murderers should be punished stringently as per SC & ST (PoA) and all such cases in U.P. and Gujarat must be investigated expeditiously. The Allahabad High Court must constitute an independent, time-bound Commission of Inquiry into the Hathras episode and hold all the perpetrators and enablers of the crime fully accountable.
• The families of all the victims must be provided with full security and safety. As per the directions of the Supreme Court, witness protection must be ensured, especially considering the manner in which the family of the Hathras victim feels isolated and terrorized.
• Strict action must be taken as per PoA Act on police and government officials who refused to file an appropriate FIR in time, who cremated the victim in a clandestine way in the dead of the night, who were complicit in covering up and attempting to destroy the case and evidence, persecuting the already distraught family.
• All state governments and Centre must ensure the scrupulous implementation of the SC & ST Prevention of Atrocities Act, 1989 in addition to the Criminal Law Amendments 2013 and recommendations of the Justice J.S. Verma Committee, 2013. All cases of sexual violence on dalit and adivasi women must be fast-tracked, as per PoA.
• The Chief Minister of UP must step down for having failed miserably to protect the constitutional, legal and human rights of multiple marginalized sections including dalit, adivasi women and muslims.
• The state governments must put an end to police and administrative high-handedness, especially the increasing cases of custodial deaths. The attacks on activists and repression of dissent should stop immediately.
• Police-State must stop criminalizing peaceful and democratic protests that express much needed citizens outrage against caste and gender-based violence or atrocities on other marginalized communities.
We are committed to full accountability of the perpetrators, but wish to state that demands for ‘hanging’ the rapists, castration or extra-judicial killings of the accused are unacceptable and in no way address the structural and institutional reasons for repeated denial of dignity and justice to the survivors and victims. These forms of punishment are only an eye-wash and makes an already unaccountable State more powerful.
Further, as we demand actions and accountability of the State, we must remember that the key to realizing many of these also lies in intensifying our struggles in annihilation of caste and patriarchy, as systemic and pervasive agencies of oppression.