Those were very busy days for the 19 year old Madhu Valmiki(Madhu is a fictitious name). Simply because one more child was born into her family. Her brother is once again a father for his third daughter. Madhu stitched more dresses with saree and other clothes. Her sartorial skills excelled every other in the family. " quick, once again", her sister in law paused with a weep.
She was the best cook in the family. Her father is lying in the coir cot motionless and tired. It is a three bedroom house. But after sundown, darkness descends in the rooms painted black and blue. He continued with a sigh.
"We should get justice, For Takurs,there are people to support..!!"
Madhu went out from the house to collect food for the cattle on September 14. She may never have thought that would be her last journey and her body would be torn into pulp. As wolves pounced her in turn, darkness blighted her and the dalit girl's life ended.
The first girl to attend school
This happened in Bul Gudi village, not known much, in Hathras district. It is a beautiful hamlet dotted by luxuriant green fields. A road that can nearly accommodate a single vehicle bisects the field. Maize, rice and brinjal are cultivated in these fields. The Valmiki community in that village is of a small number, five houses. Their life was nondescript and lackluster.The village is dominated by Pandits and Takurs, Madhu is the first girl to attend school from the Valmiki community. As she reached the 5th grade, schooling was stopped, as she was scared of the heavy traffic on the national highway. Even that sacrifice could not save her life, that pain is largely lit on the mother's lachrymose eyes.
Even the turn in the grocery is based on the caste. The first preference goes to upper castes, Valmiki which is a scheduled caste gets the chance last. It is an unwritten law in the village. Still with all these odds, they were pulling a life on a shoe string. But all on a sudden tragedy came out of the blue. Devil in the semblance of bi pedals dragged Madhu to the field.
The field is not even five minute walk distance from her residence. It is a two piece land, and there lies a small passage between them. Maize is grown in these fields. Every maize plant is one man high without offering any visibility to what happens there.It is 20 meters away from the road, trodden only by the village folk. The four membered-gang forcefully dragged her to the maize field, A small glade of trampled maize is what remain snow to testify she was raped.
The four alleged, belong to Takur caste, who are cooling their heels now. While the dastardly act was on, one of the accused strangleheld her, injured her vertebral column and the tip of the tongue was cut while overpowering her. She was seen in a pool of blood after a long search by her mother.She had been comatose for one week in Jawaharlal Nehu Medical College, Aligarh. This is not the first time sexual, a assault is happening in this country. The notoriety and the attention it received is because how it had been handled by the Yogi government. The culprits received enormous support from the government. This is not the only case of this sort as the National Crime Record Bureau data shows . But the list is topped by UP. It has the dubious recording of 15 percentage of the crimes of this sort in the country. None can turn a blind eye to the fact it is the covert and overt support of the government that increases such incidents.
Cruel state connivance to the accused
The police did not charge the case under the sexual assault provisions until she regained consciousness on September,22. The girl testified that she was sexually abused and assaulted. Police started to investigate presence of semen after a spell of another three days, i.e, after 11 days of the rape. The police tried to prove that abused had not occurred since traces of semen were not detected. Expert opinion is that traces of semen can only be detected if forensic examination is held within 72-90 hours. This is attested by the experts in the medical college also.
But the relevant question is, why the police is so hell bent and adamant to prove that no sexual abuse has occurred. According to IPC 375 presence of semen is not required to prove abuse/ molestation. This IPC provision had been flung to winds by the police. A sexual assault case can be easily registered based on the circumstantial evidence in this case. Police simply neglected this. Moreover, the parents while carrying her to the hospital testified to the police that molestation had occurred. The police had to frame the case as there was no way out with provisions of sexual molestation, but the police look very stubborn to prove the opposite based on the so called absence of semen.
The girl succumbed to death at Safdarjung hospital on 29,September. This tragic incident has played terrible havoc to the family as it would be in the case of any other family. The tragic incident threw the family out of gear. Adding to the injury was the insult heaped on them by the government and the police. The family was not even allowed to see the body for the last time. The police had a hell lot of limping justification. The police cremated the body under the cover of darkness. The family was denied the last chance to kiss her. The mother could do nothing, but control her weeps. Father and the whole family shed tears submissively to the police. The trauma does not end there; the family was put under house confinement in the following days.
Casteism- Hathras model
Nation wide outrage broke all the bounds. Priyanka led the protest in Valmiki ashram in Delhi, Bolloywood star Swara Bhaskar led the protest in Jandar Mandir.The picture of nationwide cauldron is in contrast with the village. The most stunning fact, what could be peceived is the caste factor which influenced Government support that encouraged the criminals. Takur BJP MLAs organized themselves alleging that false charges had been slapped on the culprits.
Many, including Dalit activist Chandrasekhar Azad criticised it is Takur raj in UP and the efforts are active to save Takurs. It is observed that the Takur caste is emerging and gaining power gradually and suppressing other castes, Kshathriya supremacy is gaining upper hand in Hidutva politics, observes academicians like Kancha Eliah. The controversy on the suicide of Sushant singh who belongs to Rajput community and the Takur raj in UP are to be viewed in this context, says Eliah.
Madhu's family lost one of the dearest in the tragedy; insecurity prevails now.Since very strong upper caste threat is looming large over the family, the family plans to migrate from the village. But Bhim Army leader Chandra Sekhar Azad offered support and protection to the family. They feel insecure and are moving to a secure place, the family said in the press conference where Azad was also present. It is not just one family leaving the village, it is the failed justice before the unjust government that supports casteism and sexual abuse.
UP police manhandled Rahul Gandhi, Priyanka Gandhi and Trinamool congress leaders who were to visit the family. Bhim army leader Azad was confined under house arrest. But the yogi government which tried to ostracise and insulate the issue politically had to concede defeat thanks to the swelling supporting crowds on DND highway as Rahul Gandhi declared to go forward at any cost. Rahul's visit, as well as Priyanka's, to the house and embracing the bereaved mother reeling under anguish not only placated her and the family but it was a support to the cause of justice. Allahabad high court slapped a suomoto case which was a slap on Yogi. Yogi was compelled to suspend four policemen and the SP. The suspended SP Vikrant was SP in Unnao where the the dead body of the rape victim was cremated during last December. He was alleged to have denied the family's right and wish to see the body for the last time. Though not suspended, district magistrate Praveen Kumar Laksar was also under strong allegations. Earlier, this officer of 2012 IAS batch prohibited call to Muslim prayer (azan) claiming it to be part of the covid 19 protocol. The order was quashed by the Allahabad high court. The suspension was after the appointment of special investigation team as a sequel to the court order. But SIT too followed suit. It argued both the alleged policemen, culprits and the victim's family should undergo lie detection test. It is unheard of and singular in history. Immediately, the state government recommended CBI inquiry. However, there are umpteen reasons to family not to fully rely on any investigation. As a last resort, the family wanted an inquiry under the supervision of the Supreme Court.
(This report published in Varadhya Madhyamam on 11th October 2020 was tranlated by Sibahathulla Sakib)