Relatives in Hathras in Uttar Pradesh mourn the death of the Dalit woman / Image: Scroll.in
The Hathras Dalit woman, the reaction to whose rape and murderer have become examples of how ‘upper castes’ continue to act with impunity in Uttar Pradesh, added another brick on its wall of shame. A ‘Panchayat’ or village level ‘administration’ meeting was organised in Hathras, reportedly in favour of the rape and murder accused on Friday, reported the India Today.
Groups who swear affiliation to an association called the Savarn Samaj that translates as ‘upper caste community/ society’ staged their own version of a dharna in Uttar Pradesh’s Hathras. What were they protesting? Not the most barbaric crime against an innocent Dalit woman, and the hate against her community. This group was out demanding “justice for the men accused of brutalising the 19-year-old Dalit girl”. The panchayat was deliberately held just a few kilometers from the girls village and was to show that the ‘upper caste’ representatives were “in favour of the four accused” who are now under arrest and in police custody.
#UP : #Protest held by upper caste community in the #village to support the accused in the alleged murder and rape of 19 yr old Dalit girl. Demand fair inquiry in the case. Hang them if guilty, they say. Accuse political parties of indulging in petty politics.#HathrasHorror pic.twitter.com/AQzJyTqZma
— Anuja Jaiswal (@Anuja_Jaiswal11) October 2, 2020
India today reported that calls were raised during the so-called ‘dharna’ for an “unbiased probe” by the special investigation team (SIT) which has already been formed by the Uttar Pradesh government, and as announced by Chief Minister Adityanath himself.
The ‘upper caste’ demonstration made feeble attempts to seem balanced, and as the IT report quotes, one demonstrator said, “If our children are guilty, then they should be punished,” but he added that “the innocent should not be framed.” Thus hinting to those present that he does give the benefit of ‘innocence’ to those arrested. However, it is a fact that only a court of law can decide innocence or guilt. Such comments, however, reflect the ‘upper caste’ mindset and an attempt to change the narrative away from what it is, the brulaisation of the young woman who was attacked for her Dalit identity.
This can also be a reason why the panchayat was held at Bhagna village, just five km away from Boolgarhi village from where the 19-year-old Dalit victim hails. The meeting wanted to make sure their presence was registered and their opinion that was in favour of the four men accused of brutalising the teen was noted. India Today reported that this Panchayat claimed that some “political parties are making use of the case for their own benefit”. Since the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is in government both at the state and the Centre, this was an attack on the Opposition parties which over the past few days have galvanised themselves to protest the attack, and have even been attacked themselves by UP police during protest marches.
Of course as reported by SabrangIndia, and others, October 1, 2020, the Uttar Pradesh ADG (Law and Order) Prashant Kumar too had said said forensic science laboratory (FSL) claimed that the Dalit girl had not been raped. He had also added that “some ppl twisted the matter to stir caste-based tension. Such people will be identified & legal action will be taken.”
The panchayat seemed to be confident in being able to direct the ongoing investigation as evident as they are stating things like, “The truth will prevail if the girl’s brother and mother are questioned.” According to the IT news report, a man even claimed that the accused were just “serving water”. Another reportedly said “politicians are turning this upside down and the police are conducting the right probe”.