“We are prisoners and the accused are free”, these were the words that the brother of Hathras gang rape victim said to Brinda Karat and Subhashini Ali of the Communist Party of India (Marxist). The above two former members of the Rajya Sabha had gone to meet the family of the Dalit gang rape victim to inquire about their wellbeing.
Through the official account of CPI(M) on ‘X’ (formerly Twitter), we know that the Uttar Pradesh government has refused to appeal against the judgment of the Uttar Pradesh Court in the Hathras gang rape case that had acquitted 3 out of the 4 accused and had found the lone 4th accused to be guilty of culpable homicide not amounting to murder.
The post can be viewed here:
We are prisoners & accused are free: brother of Hathras victim to Brinda Karat & Subhashini Ali who went to inquire about their wellbeing. UP govt has refused to appeal against judgement that cleared 3 accused & found 4th guilty of “man slaughter” & not gangrape & murder. pic.twitter.com/PoguGaABUn
— CPI (M) (@cpimspeak) January 17, 2024
Notably, in March of 2023, a special court in the Hathras district of Uttar Pradesh had convicted the key accused Sandeep Sisodiya for committing culpable homicide not amounting to murder and had sentenced him to life imprisonment. On the other hand, the Special court judge, Trilok Pal Singh had acquitted Ravindra Singh, Ram Singh and Luvkush Singh. None of the four had been convicted of murder or gang-rape of the 19-year-old Dalit girl, even after having been charged for the same by the police.
While it may be a disappointment, the refusal of the Uttar Pradesh government to move the Allahabad High Court against the aforementioned judgment, the same does not come as a surprise in view of the deliberate role that the state government and authorities played in disrupting the investigation in the gang rape case. From delaying the swab test to ascertain sexual assault by eight days to refusal to transfer the District magistrate, the UP government had played an adversary to the victim and the Dalit family. It is crucial to remember that it was the state police that had forcibly cremated the dead body of the alleged gang rape victim after she had succumbed to her injuries.
It is important to highlight here the callousness shown by the Uttar Pradesh government while they sought to probe into the FIR relating to the alleged criminal conspiracy to spread caste conflict, instigating violence, incidents of vicious propaganda by sections of media and political interests. In the matter of Kerala-based journalist Siddique Kappan, who had been arrested in October 2020 while on his way to Hathras to report on the gang rape, the state government had vehemently opposed the grant of bail to Kappan in the Supreme Court, claiming that he had “deep links” with the Popular Front of India. In September 2022, the UP government had further claimed that Kappan was part of a larger conspiracy to “incite religious discord and spread terror.”
The same government was reported to not have complied with Allahabad High Court’s order to provide employment to one of the family members. On August 28, 2023, the Allahabad High Court, which had been monitoring the Hathras gang rape case, had been informed by Amicus Jaideep Narain Mathur about the same. It is essential to note that in July 2022, the High Court had issued directions to the state government to provide employment to one of the family members in as well as to relocate them to some other place outside Hathras keeping in mind the family’s social and economic rehabilitation and also the educational needs of the children. The said order was passed by the HC pursuant to noting that none of the male members of the victim’s family was getting any employment opportunity as a consequence of the atrocity committed against them and the struggle of the Dalit family to seek justice against the dominant caste.
Ironically, in March 2023, the said order of the High Court was also challenged by the Uttar Pradesh government in the Supreme Court. Dismissing the challenge, the bench comprising Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud, Justice PS Narasimha and Justice JB Pardiwala had expressed surprise at the State’s decision to challenge the High Court’s order in an appeal. And yet, the Uttar Pradesh government has refused to challenge the judgment delivered by the Sessions Court.
The gang rape and murder of the teenage Dalit girl had resulted in an uproar, which had put pressure on the state government as well as the courts to at least create an illusion of justice being delivered to the perpetrators. The final judgement in the case shows the vulnerability of Dalit women to sexual violence and caste-based discrimination prevailing in the state of Uttar Pradesh and the indifference of the state government, who chose to protect the dominant caste perpetrators, highlighting the urgent need for comprehensive reforms to address these deep rooted issues in UP.