The 19-year-old Dalit girl who was gang-raped by four ‘upper-caste’ men in Hathras, Uttar Pradesh has died, succumbing to horrific injuries she suffered. The UP police had confirmed that the teenager was strangled with her own dupatta after she was ganraped, tortured and dragged into a field on September 14.
The victim was raped in the most brutal manner, tortured, her tongue cut off and her spinal cord was severely injured. She had to be shifted to Aligarh hospital for treatment, and after pressure from the people, and Dalit leaders, she was shifted to Delhi’s Safdarjung Hospital where she died this morning, Tuesday, September 29. Four of the five accused upper caste men of the woman’s village in Hathras district, were arrested and charged with gangrape and (then) attempt to murder, apart from charges under the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.
According to media reports the accused were arrested after a statement given by the victim herself on September 23, when she regained consciousness briefly. She had named the upper caste men – Sandeep, his uncle Ravi, Ramu and Luvkush, of committing rape. The teenager told the police that she had gone to gather fodder for her animals, when the men sexually assaulted her. According to a report in the Indian Express, the victim’s mother, who had gone with her to a field nearby to cut grass for their cows before the incident took place, said “I was sitting 100 metres from her. I could have saved her. I wish I wasn’t hard of hearing.”
The family has also alleged that Sandeep, and his family had “always harassed Dalits in their area”. Nearly two decades ago, Sandeep’s grandfather had been booked under the SC/ST Act and served three months in prison for allegedly thrashing the victim’s grandfather over a petty issue, reported IE. The victim’s brother told IE that said the incident of 19 years ago had left rancour between the families, “but nothing ever happened”. “They are upper castes and have always called us names. We ignore them. Sandeep is an alcoholic who harasses women, but nobody ever files a complaint,” he is quoted.
While politicians, and activists across the political divide had raised their voices to draw the attention of Uttar Pradesh chief minister to the growing instances of heinous crimes, the state government seems to be routine in its plan of action. It is worth recalling that a similar incident of rape and torture, reported in the national capital Delhi, a few years ago had ignited a movement of ‘change’. The victim was hailed as “Nirbhaya” and the people’s, media’s and political outrage in the wake of her unfortunate death had led to the fall of the state government, and a new law was passed in parliament. The adult accused Akshay Thakur, Vinay Sharma, Pawan Gupta and Mukesh Singh were sentenced to death by a trial court in 2013, and hanged in March 2020. Even Prime Minister Narendra Modi had hailed the execution of the verdict, stating that “justice has prevailed”, and committed to “build a nation where the focus is on women’s empowerment”.
That was Delhi, and this is UP, where even recording the FIR was allegedly delayed. Congress leader Shyoraj Jivan Valmiki had met the survivor’s family on Wednesday and demanded that action be taken against the police for the delay in recording the survivor’s statement. Deepak Kumar, the vice president of the UP Congress Committee, alleged that the accused and the local police were threatening the family members of the survivor.
On Wednesday, Bhim Army chief Chandrashekhar Azad had alleged that violence, and atrocities against Dalits in Uttar Pradesh are on the rise. He also posted on social media highlighting two such criminal attacks on Dalit leaders in UP, and alleged that the criminals were fearless as if they had official “government protection”.
In December 2019, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has put itself on “high alert” after Hyderabad’s brutal rape case had rocked the nation. The Commission had issued notices to the Centre and all States and Union Territories on December 2, seeking reports on SOP (Standard Operating Procedure) to deal with cases of sexual assault. The Commission has also asked for status reports on utilisation of the Nirbhaya fund in the last 3 years and details of availability of money in the fund.
The Nirbhaya fund, administered by the Ministry of Finance is a fund that can be utilised for projects of women safety and security. Any policies related to safety of women formulated by any State or UT can receive funding from the Nirbhaya fund after necessary approvals. It has a corpus of Rs. 10 billion.
The Commission noted in its statement, “The largest democracy of the world, which has adopted the longest written constitution and has a rich cultural heritage of gender equality, is today being criticised for having the most unsafe environment for women…“The incidents of rapes, molestation, gender based discrimination and other such atrocities against women have, unfortunately, become routine media headlines.”
The Commission also issued notices to Director-Generals of Police asking them about the best practices adopted to deal with cases of sexual abuse and details of the action taken against the police officers found insensitive and guilty of negligence. The Commission called for a detailed report from the Ministry of Womenand child development for details on schemes or guidelines initiated and more importantly, the status of the implementation of the same.
Nirbhaya Fund utilization data
Data released by the Parliament last year revealed that Maharashtra is the only state, among the large states, which has not used the Nirbhaya fund at all. Among the 12 states which were granted funds for the Mahila Police Volunteer Scheme, only 4 states utilised the fund. There seems to be no monitoring by the Centre for implementation of these schemes and the States couldn’t care less for using this special fund for building a better, safer ecosystem for women.
Uttar Pradesh specially has regularly been in the news as the state’s children, especially those from economically weaker families become victims of rape and murder. Multiple cases have been reported from Mathiya village in Singahi block of Lakhimpur Kheri district. The brutalised body of a toddler was found in sugarcane fields recently. The 3-year-old was raped and murdered, and her body found a day after she had been reported missing. This was reported on September 3. In the same district of Lakhimpur Kheri, a 13-yr-old girl was raped, murdered on August 14, a 17-yr-old girl raped, murdered on August 26. Yet no one from the government has called the victims ‘UP’s Nirbhaya’ and called out the ‘Beti Bachao’ slogans of the Union Government. In fact the UP government has received much acclaim from the centre as the state with the ‘best chief minister in Adityanath, even as the list of heinous crimes against Dalits, and women continues to grow.
Meanwhile, the UP CM has been busy with webinars, and online inaugurations
CM श्री @myogiadityanath जी ने कृषि क्षेत्र की आत्मनिर्भरता के लिए संवेदनशील भाव से किसानों के विकास और कल्याण का पथ प्रशस्त किया है। किसान हित के पहलुओं पर @UPGovt ने कई प्रभावी और परिवर्तनकारी नीतियां, योजनाएं और कार्यक्रम प्राथमिकता पर लागू किए हैं।https://t.co/OmzvWemPt0
— CM Office, GoUP (@CMOfficeUP) September 29, 2020
आत्मनिर्भर भारत अभियान के अंतर्गत पं. दीनदयाल उपाध्याय जी के जीवन पर आयोजित वेबिनार में… https://t.co/Qpg1eJrTjg
— Yogi Adityanath (@myogiadityanath) September 28, 2020