Against Hathras gang rape and murder!
Against Hathras gang rape and murder!
On 14 September 2020, a 19-year-old Dalit woman was gang-raped in Hathras district, Uttar Pradesh, India, allegedly by four upper caste men. After fighting for her life for two weeks, she died in a Delhi hospital.
The incident took place on 14 September 2020, when the victim, a 19-year-old Dalit woman went to a farm to collect cattle fodder. Four men — Sandip, Ramu, Lavkush and Ravi — allegedly dragged her away by dupattaaround her neck injuring her spinal cord in the process. The four upper caste men accused of rape allegedly belong to the Thakurcaste.The violence left her paralyzed with a severe spinal cord injury. The four men allegedly cut her tongue.The perpetrators had tried to strangulate the girl as she resisted their rape attempt. Her cries were heard by her mother who came to the spot to find her lying down in the farm. She was at first taken to the Chand Pa police station, where the police rejected her claims and, according to the family, humiliated them. The police registered a complaint only on 20 September. Police were able to record the victim's statement on 22 September.
The victim was initially admitted to the Jawaharlal Nehru Medical College and Hospitalin Aligarh 15 days before her death, with her spinal cord severely damaged. She was later shifted to the Safdarjung Hospital in Delhi after her condition worsened. According to the police, the victim had been strangled with her dupatta. She died on 29 September 2020.
Mother of the victim said that Sandeep and Luv Kush had been harassing her and the victim for months.
The autopsy registered the cause of death as "injury to the cervical spine by blunt-force trauma," and refers to "rape and strangulation" in the medical history.(Source:Wikipedia )
After the assault, comes the character assassination. As the country recoils in revulsion after UP police’s forced cremation of the Hathras victim, the village itself is split wide open. While opposition political leaders make their way to the victim’s family amidst high street drama, village upper castes have held protests in support of the accused, questioning the victim’s testimony of rape.
The incontrovertible fact that a 19-year-old girl was violently attacked and succumbed to her injuries seems not to matter much for local dominant groups. Instead of first unitedly condemning the brutal attack, rightwing outfits like Bajrang Dal and Karni Sena and upper caste locals are all shrilly asserting that there’s no proof of rape.
BJP MLA Surendra Singh has declared that incidents of rape would end if parents instilled ‘sanskar’ in their daughters. Such incidents (like Hathras) will not stop through shashan (governance) or by the sword, but only when mothers and fathers teach sanskar and good modest behaviour to their young daughters, insisted Singh. Governance doesn’t matter, women must be reformed.
As with the Nirbhaya case when moral policemen loudly questioned why she was travelling with her boyfriend at night, the assault and death of a girl has become an opportunity to not just question her dying statement but also subliminally push narratives of the doomsday fate that awaits women who don’t uphold ‘sanskar’. Woman-hating patriarchs are using the word ‘sanskar’ (traditional morality) as a perverse, hypocritical and sinister term to terrorise women and keep them in line. Why is the word ‘sanskar’ never used to castigate male criminal behaviour?
There’s nothing to suggest the Hathras victim was in any way departing from ‘sanskar’. She lived with her family among the Valmiki community in Boolagarhi village. Walking out to nearby fields to cut grass for household animals, she may not have been as completely invisible as conservatives would like Dalit women to be. For India’s cultural warriors, a woman, particularly a Dalit woman who is not always skulking in the shadows, is guilty of the effrontery of simply being seen.
A mounting Hindutva conservative backlash against visible, outspoken, educated or ‘modern’ women has been gathering pace over the years. A few years ago Yogi Adityanath wrote: “Considering the importance and honour of women our scriptures have always spoken of giving her protection… Energy can go to waste and cause damage if left free and uncontrolled, women power does not require freedom but protection.” Unequal societies cosset women and in the guise of ‘protection’ take away every right guaranteed to citizens irrespective of gender by India’s Constitution.
In 2014 Manohar Lal Khattar declared, “If a girl is dressed decently, a boy will not look at her in the wrong way… If you want freedom, why don’t you roam around naked?” In 2009 rightwing group Sri Ram Sene dragged women out of a Mangalore pub claiming they were destroying Indian culture. In 2017, GC Tripathi, the RSS-linked VC of Banaras Hindu University, told women students protesting sexual harassment they were “marketing their modesty”. 2015 UPSC topper Tina Dabi from an SC background was mercilessly trolled. In 2017, rightwing Karni Sena threatened to cut off actor Deepika Padukone’s nose for the film Padmaavat.
Shaming and blaming of women actors has also been seen in the Sushant Singh Rajput case. AIIMS has now confirmed that the actor died by suicide. Yet for weeks his girlfriend Rhea Chakraborty was dubbed a ‘vishkanya’(wicked woman), gold digger, a Bengali who used black magic. It’s largely due to this hysterical character assassination that Chakraborty remains in jail. Yet when she dared to question the motives of Bihar police, a Bihar policeman turned politician shrieked at her, “Aukat kya hai?”
Women actors like Padukone and others who were summoned by the NCB were similarly morally judged. TV channels ran pictures of them in evil temptress mode, while ruling party spokespersons united to claim victimhood for Rajput. Talented, outspoken Bollywood women are clearly public enemies for those who want to see women restricted behind a Lakshman rekha. It must be pointed out here that many women themselves blindly endorse militant traditionalism and patriarchy even though dictatorial patriarchy inflicts immense fear and pain almost only on women. For example, the practice of sati shows that it’s women who have to die in order to serve so-called tradition.
The sangh parivar’s women activists/ politicians are forced into conformism. During the Ayodhya movement Uma Bharti and Sadhvi Rithambhara may have struck out among the male dominated sant sadhu crowd but they have been marginalised. BJP women must by and large abide by the Sushma Swaraj prototype of blazing sindoor and mangalsutra as pennants declaring their firm attachment to tradition.
The top Hindu nationalist leadership shows little inclination towards feminism. Narendra Modi famously used the phrase “50 crore girlfriend”, RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat has said household duties should be primarily undertaken by women. Perhaps here lie clues on why India is today one of the world’s worst performers when it comes to women’s participation in the workforce, which declined sharply from a low 36.7% in 2005 to a measly 26% in 2018.
If there’s no fundamental mental transformation, if as a society we fail to embrace the constitutional principle of equal citizenship of men and women, if an assaulted woman becomes the villain not the victim, slogans like ‘Beti bachao, beti padhao’ will remain meaningless. Crimes against women will continue to rise as cultural warriors seek perpetual revenge against imaginary ‘vishkanyas’. (@SagarikaGhose)