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Gangrape of a Dalit woman in Hathras, UP

A 19 year old Dalit woman of UP died, fighting for her life in Safdarjung Hospital, New Delhi. She was allegedly gangraped by four upper caste men of Hathras district on September 14.

Source: The Hindu

The woman was dragged to a field and gangraped, her tongue was cut off, and she was strangled by the men with her dupatta. She was initially admitted to the local district hospital, later moved to a hospital in Aligarh, and finally she succumbed to her injuries while undergoing treatment in the Safdarjung Hospital, New Delhi.

The woman briefly regained consciousness on September 23rd and named four men accusing them of committing the heinous crime against her. These men are Sandeep, his uncle Ravi, and their two friends. The family of the victim has alleged that the prime accused Sandeep and his family have always harassed Dalits in their area. Over 20 years ago, his grandfather was also booked under the SC/ST Act for thrashing the victim’s grandfather. He had served a sentence of three months in prison and then later got bail. The victim’s brother has also accused that Sandeep is an alcoholic and is often found harassing women in the area but no one has ever dared to file a complaint against him.

This is a serious case of neglect by the Uttar Pradesh Law and Order Administration as the crime was committed on 14th September but FIR was not filed till 21st September. Even while initially filing the FIR, the administration did not acknowledge that it was a case of gangrape but repeatedly kept terming it a case of old enmity between the families. Mr Shishir, who is the Director of Information and Public Relations of UP Government kept dismissing the reports of gangrape as ‘fake news’. Apart from him, Nandkishor Gurjar, a BJP MLA from Uttar Pradesh has been citing a dubious postmortem report on his social media to call reports of sexual violence a fake news. It is believed that the local police officials were acting on pressure from the family of the accused which belongs to the upper caste Thakur community which forms a large part of the district’s population. A case of gangrape was filed 10 days after the incident and even a proper medical check-up was not done. It has been alleged that these were deliberate attempts to erase important evidence like blood and semen samples making it difficult to ascertain whether she was raped. However, the woman’s mother who had found her lying on the fields has said that she found her daughter’s vagina bleeding, her spinal cord broken, and her tongue cut off.

This case reflects sheer neglect from the government and the officials’ insensitivity which points towards the administration’s attitude towards caste based crimes against women and their loyalty towards the upper caste groups in the area. Politicians backing up the people accused of these crimes show the blatant casteism of the lawmakers and political patronage which enables people to commit such crimes. This incident cannot be seen in isolation as it is one of the many crimes of caste based violence against women. Caste becomes an important dimension of this incident as the brutality that went into the crime shows that there was an evident intent of displaying ‘power’ or ‘superiority’ to show Dalits their place.

The caste dimension in the case can be explored by further understanding the population dynamic and power play in the district. The district has around 600 families, half of which are Thakurs, 100 of them Brahmins and only 15 families belong to the Dalit community. The victim’s family has mentioned instances of caste discrimination against them. The mother said that the Thakurs dump their garbage near the homes of Dalit people. The victim’s brother-in-law who works in Delhi said that in the village there is an evident frustration among the people of upper caste as they cannot accept that the people who once used to work in their homes do not work there anymore. The brother also mentioned other discriminatory incidents like shopkeepers sprinkling water on the money given by Dalits or not letting them touch anything in their shops.

The victim’s cousin had tried to get the media’s attention to the gangrape by posting about it on Twitter and tagging the official handles of some of the top media channels but could not get even one response.

The four accused men have been charged with gangrape, attempt to murder, and charges under SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act. They have been arrested now. The National Commission for Women (NCW) has assured that it will be providing all the possible assistance to the victim’s family. Bhim Army Chief Chandrashekhar Azad had visited the Aligarh Hospital and is now raising his voice seeking justice for the deceased.

Delhi Mahila Congress Chief Amrita Dhawan, AICC In-charge P L Punia, and other Congress workers were arrested by the Delhi police earlier today for protesting against the Hathras gangrape case in front of the Parliament. The Valmiki community which the victim belonged to has been protesting in different parts of Uttar Pradesh. The state lately has become the centre of crimes against women, most of them being cases of caste based violence. Congress General Secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra and Samajwadi Party Chief Akhilesh Yadav have hit out at the CM Yogi Adityanath for the worsening state of law and order in the state.

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