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The scream from Hathras

Uttar Pradesh under Yogi Adityanath's government has of late been attaining the dubious distinction of hitting headlines for its jungle raj with law and order taking a back seat. His is a state where, in his own constituency, a medical college could not stock up enough oxygen due to corruption and inefficiency and newborns died in the dozen, and a doctor who struggled on his own to save lives was termed guilty. Therefore, there is little surprise in attacks against Dalits and minorities and sexual torture increasing every day. According to the figures from the National Crime Records Bureau during the period from 2016 to 2019, attacks against women increased in UP by 20 percent. As a matter of fact, the actual extent of crimes, hushed up without anyone's knowledge, is more widespread and grisly than is known to the public. It may be noted that the Hathras gangrape incident, which has triggered nation-wide ire, came to the world's notice only after 14 days. It is only because of the national rage in this context that the news of another girl being killed following rape in Balrampur, became public before it was late.

What the gangrape in Hathras proves once again is that upper caste consciousness plays a major role in the awful sexual crimes happening in our country. The sad fate of the 19-year old girl, subjected to heinous torture by four monstrous Thakur men, shook the conscience of the country and ignited national outrage. But in a closer examination, it will become apparent that the alertness and diligence followed by the authorities and the judiciary and the sternness towards the criminals that had marked the Nirbhaya case - which had sparked fire of protests across the nation in 2014 - has been lost or has slackened when it came to the Hathras incident. The main reason for this laxity is the upper caste/savarna approach sets a national mind-set of not seeing sexual atrocities against Delit and backward communities as a major malaise.

In India, rape is an authoritarian exercise of caste/male hegemony. The savarna suprecasists take it for granted that they are invested with a right to torture Dalit girls. For them, sexual overpowering amounts to asserting by themselves that lower castes are slaves. Prof Ashok Swain, who has conducted research about atrocities against Dalits, establishes that using rape as a weapon to silence anti-caste voices is quite common UP, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh. They also know that opposition to such outrages can be overturned by using upper-caste clout and power. In the Unnao rape case in UP, in which a BJP MLA was the chief accused, it was the state government and its police that helped torpedo the case by trying to kill the girl and killing the family. In the Hathras girl's case too, the police and state's doctors were refusing to provide sufficient treatment and legal protection to the female victim. Despite begging for mercy by the parents of the girl to have a final view of her dead body, the police refused permission for that and hastened to cremate the body in the cover of darkness and without any funeral rites. This was for nothing other than saving the culprits. After ensuring that the entire truth was burned into ashes, the ADGP was emboldened to declare that there was no evidence of sexual assault, with the support of a forensic report that was prepared to corroborate his stance.

Yogi Adityanath's UP is once again reinforcing the well-entrenched assumption that it is alright to use Dalit girls and then ruthlessly kill them and there will be unconditional support from the police and the government to protect the criminal. By denying outright the right of the victim's family to cremate the dead body and the right of social and political workers to visit her and enquire about facts, what gets a rebirth is a savarna-dictated politics that rules rape is a birthright. The BJP, which sees in Yogi Adityanath a future prime minister, has been justifying the Hathras incident and standing by the roguish Thakur criminals. What irks the rulers of UP is not the iniquities ruling the roost in the state, but rather the publication of news about them. Thus Yogi's UP has become a byword for a state with a social order where mediapersons, who tell the truth to the outside world and right to information activists, spend time in jail and criminals reside in official residences. And precisely for this reason the continuing sexual assaults, especially those against Dalit communities, cannot be terminaed by passive protests. Justice cannot be achieved without ceaselessly talking about the hypocrisy of the police, the judiciary and politicians and without constantly quarrelling with the dispensation dominated by patriarchal attitudes. It is impossible to put an end to Dalit insecurity without socially and politically challenging savarna supremacy.

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TAGS:Hathras gangrape Dalit woman UP police 
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