The Yogi government in Uttar Pradesh had come riding a wave of hostility against the Akhilesh Yadav led Samajwadi party government in 2017 following the horrific Badaun rape and murder of two sisters . UP's law and order, especially crimes against women, was a much debated topic during elections. The first thing Yogi Adityanath did after assuming power was to announce a Romeo Squad, a special force, to instill fear among anti social elements and provide security to women.
But the ground reality has remained disturbing, with incidents of rape and murder of women being reported with disturbing frequency from the state. The Hathras incident, in which a Dalit girl was raped and tortured to death, and her body burnt forcibly in the dead of night even as her parents kept pleading with the police to hand over the body so that they could perform her last rites, has shocked the collective conscience of all right thinking people in the country.
But this sorry state of affairs, as far as women's safety goes, has become routine in the state. The police and administration, in case after case, have come across as an insensitive bunch of hoodlums, caring two hoots for either decency or propriety. Can anyone forget the visuals of that police officer with a wicked grin on his face as the girl's body burnt in the dead of night in the background?
Data released by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) for the year 2018 in January this year showed that Uttar Pradesh recorded a shocking increase of 20% in crimes against women from 2016 to 2019. The NCRB data has marked Uttar Pradesh as the most unsafe state for women. According to its report for 2017, which was released after a delay of more than one and a half years, 56,011 cases of crime against women were reported while the number surged to 59,445 for the year 2018. What is shocking is the fact that the number has been increasing over the years: 35,908 cases were registered in 2015 and 49,262 in 2016. Uttar Pradesh remains at the top with 15.7% cases. As far as cases of rape are concerned, Uttar Pradesh comes a close second to Madhya Pradesh. In 2018, 3,946 rape cases were registered in UP involving 4,322 victims, including 1,411 minors. The state in 2017 had reported 4,246 rape cases, again second highest in the country after Madhya Pradesh, in which victims were minor in almost 1560 cases. As many as 5401 cases under POCSO were registered in 2018. Of the total cases, 2,444 are of dowry deaths, 14,233 of domestic violence and 15,381 kidnappings.
Another shocking revelation from the NCRB data from Uttar Pradesh showed a tremendous jump of close to 27.9% in crimes against those belonging to the Scheduled Castes in 2017.
The brutal rape and murder of the Dalit girl from Hathras, which has shaken the conscience of entire country in the last few days, seems just another data in a state where such atrocities have become frequent. It was not too log ago that a minor girl in Unnao, who was raped and almost her entire family was eliminated by the BJP MLA, Kuldeep Sengar, made headlines in July last year. The details of that case were so shocking that the Supreme Court had to intervene because the state government refused to take cognizance of her complaint for two months. Instead of registering her complaint, the unnao police had instead arrested her father and uncle on false charges of keeping illegal arms. The father was beaten up so badly in police custody that he died. Exasperated, the girl and her mother tried immolating themselves in front of the chief minister's residence. It was then that the apex court took note and directed the government to file a case against the accused MLA. The girl's entire family, while they were on their way to court , was injured in a horrific car crash in which two of her aunts died. The MLA and two other accused have been now convicted in the case.
Yet another shocking incident came to light from Unnao in December 2019 when a rape survivor was burnt alive by the accused who were out on bail. The girl was on her way to depose in the rape case when she was burnt. She ran for a kilometer while still burning, before collapsing o the road . She was brought to Safdarjung hospital in Delhi, where she later died.
But even as the flames of the Hathras victim were raging, yet another girl from Balrampur, yet again a Dalit, was raped and killed on the same day. Aged 22 years, the girl died on the same day in Balrampur district after being allegedly sexually assaulted by two men. Another minor girl, only 14-years of age, is undergoing treatment at a hospital following rape by her 20-year-old neighbour in Bulandshahr.
In what seems like an upsurge of rape and murders, such cases are being reported from the state with disturbing frequency, yet the Yogi Adityanath government claims women are safe in Uttar Pradesh. On August 15, the mutilated body of a 13-year old girl was found in a sugarcane field In Lakhimpur Kheri. She was raped and killed. The father of the girl alleged that the rapist while killing her daughter also gouged her eyes and slit her tongue. The criminal even dragged the girl by putting a rope around her neck. The girl was reported missing from August 14 afternoon. Police claim to have arrested two people, who they say, have confessed to their crime.
On the same day in chief minister's home town Gorakhpur, another teenaged girl was raped and left unconscious in the Gola area of Gorakhpur district. The girl is undergoing treatment at the district hospital. She had left home to fetch water from a hand pump when she was forcibly taken to a hut and raped. She was also tortured by inflicting burn injuries with cigarette butts.
On August 19 the burnt body of a 17 year old girl, missing since August 17 from Bhadohi was found with her face and upper portion of the body disfigured with acid to hide her identity. In Uttar Pradsh, it seems, criminals seem to have no fear of the law. On August 10, in Bulandshahr , Sudeeksha Bhati, a district topper studying in Babson College in Massachusetts, lost her life in an 'accident' that happened because of eve-teasers while she was on her way to Bulandshahr on the pillion of a motorcycle. Similarly, on August 6, in Hapur a six-year-old girl was kidnapped when she was playing outside her house in Garhmukteshwar Kotwali area of the town. The kidnapper raped the minor girl, mutilated her private parts, dumped her in a field near the village and escaped. She was found 12 hours later. Her condition continues to be critical.
Surprisingly, it seems the crimes against women have registered an increase in almost all BJP ruled states, with UP on the top, if figures compiled by the National Commission for Women are taken into account. The NCW data shows that a whopping majority, nearly 60 per cent, of complaints which reached the NCW from aggrieved women were from Uttar Pradesh. Of the 19,279 complaints that the NCW registered in the last financial year, 11,287 were from UP alone. Last year, the total number of complaints from the state stood at 8,454 (55 per cent of the total complaints). The other states from where significant number of women approached the NCW also included Delhi, Haryana, Rajasthan, Bihar and Punjab.
Crimes against women, especially rape, say social scientists, are not only a law and order problem, but also a reflection of the mindset of a rotting patriarchal system which treats women as commodities. This rotten mindset has somehow mutated to monstrous proportions, so much so that state institutions seem to be completely indifferent to the sufferings being perpetrated by the so called powerful people on the hapless poor. Rape as assertion of power seems to be the rule in UP, with the ascetic yogi conveniently looking away.