Massive protests are taking place across India in the aftermath of the death of the victim of a brutal gang rape on Tuesday, September 29. The 19-year-old, who belongs to a Dalit caste (considered untouchable in the Hindu caste system) was raped and assaulted on September 14 in Hathras district in the State of Uttar Pradesh. The culprits had tried to strangle her. Her neck was almost broken, her tongue had suffered cuts and she was left with severe spinal injuries. After initially being treated in Aligarh in the State, she was taken to a hospital in Delhi where she died. Following her death, her body was whisked away by the police to her native place. Her body was cremated while her family members were barricaded inside their house. In the following days, there were reports of her family members being threatened by district administration officials even as the media faced restrictions in entering the area. Four men have been arrested in connection with the case. They are all from an upper caste.
Uttar Pradesh is ruled by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which is also in power in the center.
Protesters across the country have taken to the streets in thousands condemning the insensitive approach and delay with which various levels of the Uttar Pradesh government led by right-wing leader Yogi Adityanath responded to the case. Even the registering of a first information report took place days after the incident. Protesters also condemned the way in which her body was cremated while her family was kept away.
Immediately after her death, protests broke out. Women’s organizations such as the All India Democratic Women’s Association (AIDWA), the All India Progressive Women’s Association (AIPWA) and students organizations such as the Students Federation of India (SFI) and the All India Students Association (AISA) held protests in Delhi and other States. The protesters faced heavy repression by the police with many being detained. Members of the Dalit organization Bhim Army were also in the forefront of the protests. Similar protests also broke out in Uttar Pradesh.
Visuals from the protests in UP’s #Hathras, where a large number of people hit the streets demanding justice for the 19-year-old Dalit victim. She was allegedly gang-raped almost two weeks and succumbed to death on 29 Sept. (Video Courtesy: Vivek Mishra) pic.twitter.com/0IbmchjeQB
— Mythreyee (@MythreyeeRamesh) September 30, 2020
On Thursday, Rahul Gandhi, leader of the opposition Indian National Congress party was manhandled by the poloce while he was on his way to Hathras to meet the family of the victim. On Friday, members of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) were arrested in Lucknow, the capital of Uttar Pradesh. On Friday, thousands of activists and citizens gathered in Delhi to stage a huge protest demanding justice for the victim. The protesters sought the resignation of the Yogi Adityanath government of Uttar Pradesh.
The incident has also brought back chilling memories of the Delhi Nirbhaya gang rape and murder that took place in 2012. The response of the police and other authorities has also added to the growing criticism of Yogi Adityanath, a prominent leader of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party. The incident has highlighted the climate of violence and lawlessness that prevails under the current dispensation. A report by the National Crime Records Bureau for the year 2019 showed that crimes against women and crimes against Dalits had risen by 7.3% in the country when compared to the previous year. Uttar Pradesh, the most populous State in the country, recorded 14.7% of cases of crime against women and 25.8% of crimes against Dalits.
The Communist Party of India (Marxist) condemning the growing incidents of gruesome attacks against women across the country, in a statement said: “[T]his barbaric caste based rape crime is reflective of the utter lawlessness in Uttar Pradesh under the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government and the patronage given to casteist and reactionary forces leading to a big increase in crimes against Dalits and women.” The party’s Polit Bureau member Brinda Karat, in an article, called the Uttar Pradesh police the “uniformed guardian of the rapists.”