India’s rural population assembles to complete last rites of Hathras victim

As many as 30,000 people from over 1,000 villages in India observe Prerna Sabha for Hathras victim. Participants apply haldi-tilak to impressionistic poster


Wishing to correct a grave wrongdoing, over 1000 villages across India applied haldi-tilak to an impressionistic image of the Hathras victim – an important Hindu-ritual denied to the Dalit girl’s body – on October 14, 2020.

On September 30, the Boolgarhi village of Hathras district was in a state of turmoil as police forced the victim’s family to cremate the body of the gang-rape victim without observing all funeral rites. Videos that captured the night’s happenings also captured the wails of the victim’s mother who appealed to the police to let her apply a haldi-tilak to her daughter’s body at the very least.



Her pleas were ignored.

However, members of the Dalit community did not ignore the mother’s request and decided to commemorate her daughter’s memory with a Prerna Sabha on Wednesday.



Dalit rights activist and founder of Gujarat-based Navsarjan Trust Martin Macwan organised the event and called upon villagers to apply the haldi (turmeric) to the victim’s image created by Khwaab Tanha Collective’s Shiraz Husain.

His call was soundly answered by nearly 30,000 people who observed the event in several rural areas of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, West Bengal, Odisha, Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Tamilnadu and Karnataka.



Many women and children participated in the event while some areas also observed protest rallies.



“The program was important for us all personally as well as collectively, as we see how this has been able to connect to many faces who have never been seen in public programs. We were able to reach the last person and it was the symbol of Haldi, a language of the common people that made it possible,” said Macwan.

Turmeric plays a crucial role in Hindu culture. Largely, it symbolises purity and prosperity and is applied to female bodies during funerals.



“While applying haldi some women broke down because bringing haldi from home and applying it to the face of the girl, the victim of sexual abuse, even though representational, brings out one’s own personal memories,” he said.

Nonetheless, the event received overwhelming support as the community demanded justice for one of its own. According to the activist, the day’s proceeding continued well into the night in many places. His organisation is still in the process of compiling information about the extent of the event.






Macwan will now move on to the second part of the Prerna Sabha wherein a pinch of haldi collected from all participants across India will be sent to Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath.

“Personally, it is very inspirational. The haldi (turmeric) collected from all these villages will now find one more program to reach the CM,” he said.

The collected spice will be sent to Adityanath with the intention to be immersed in River Ganga. This act will also symbolise the fact that the Chief Minister had failed to protect the Dalit community or respect its religious rites.

Originally, imagining the event to gain prominence in Gujarat, Macwan had spent a maximum of Rs. 62 for a poster-banner in every village. However, other villagers found alternative methods to respectfully follow the event.

“In other villages as many people painted it [the image] on the wall. Wish we could create such cadres in the form of one volunteer in each village of the country who can bring people together,” he said.

Macwan finally thanked participants for observing Prerna Sabha with him.

“Thanks for your support and wishes.  The photos attached, few from the several hundreds speak about the program we had yesterday,” said Macwan.


The Supreme Court hearing for the Hathras began on October 15.



While the state government seems to have ignored the injustice done to the Dalit girl, her community and rights activists such as journalist Teesta Setalvad continue to fight for her family’s protection.





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