Ever since the alleged gang rape and assault of two young Dalit women in Hathras and Balrampur by upper-caste men surfaced last week, political forces as well as the police have made several attempts to thwart any evidence that points towards a caste-gender matrix. From the very beginning, both these brutal sexual assaults have been projected as isolated incidents of crime, instead of being an outcome of the casteism and misogyny ingrained in the larger society.
And in an eerie reminder of the Unnao rape case, the four accused men in the Hathras rape case also have got crusaders fighting for them. Earlier this week, former Hathras MLA Rajveer Phalwan of BJP organised a protest demanding justice for the accused at his house, reportedly attended by members of Bajrang Dal, Karni Sena, and the RSS.
With every passing day, the case that has sparked outrage all over the country, is being derailed by politicians making nasty comments on the victim or defending police apathy.
A spate of distasteful comments
Evoking wide criticism, BJP MLA Surendra Singh, from UP’s Balia district, made a deplorable remark a few days ago, stating that only sanskar (good values) can prevent rapes in India. "It's the duty of all mothers and fathers to imbibe good values in their daughters and bring them up in cultured environments… I am a teacher along with being an MLA. Such incidents (like rape) can be stopped only with sanskar (culture), not with shashan (good governance) or talwar (referring to sword or might),” he told the media.
His comment has received backlash from public figures like Rahul Gandhi, and actors Swara Bhasker and Kriti Sanon.
SHAMEFUL statement! This is the problem. We live in a rampant and thriving rape culture- because of this BS mentality.
Show us your solidarity in action.. sack this man! This whataboutery on rape is not acceptable on any side of the spectrum. @bhupeshbaghel @INCChhattisgarh https://t.co/LCQLk1ssiV
— Swara Bhasker (@ReallySwara) October 5, 2020
Teach daughters how to not get raped??? Can he hear himself talk? THIS is the MINDSET that needs to change! Its so messed up! Why can’t they give some sanskaar to their sons??? https://t.co/JXj9Tx6YOe
— Kriti Sanon (@kritisanon) October 3, 2020
On the other hand, Gandhi blamed the ‘filthy’ male chauvinist mentality of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh for such comments. He tweeted, “This is the filthy RSS male chauvinist mentality at work. Men do the raping but women need to be taught good values.”
Political and police apathy
In a separate incident, Congress leader Shiv Kumar Dahariya from Chhattisgarh termed the Balrampur case as a ‘small’ incident, as compared to the Hathras gangrape case. Last week, Dahariya said, “A big incident took place in Hathras, why is Raman Singh not tweeting? A small incident took place in Balrampur. He’s doing nothing except criticising Chhattisgarh.”
The Hathras horror didn’t just bring to the fore underlying structural causes, but also police apathy to a whole new level. The UP police has filed 19 FIRs in connection with the case, and protests that have followed after the horrific gang rape and murder of the Dalit woman. The FIRs have been filed under several stringent laws, including sedition, attempts to incite violence and disturb peace, and for violating COVID-19 protocols, according to a report in The Wire.
According to the state administration, this is an ‘international conspiracy’ to malign the Yogi Adityanath government, and create unrest in the state. The Hindu monk, who has been voted the ‘Best Chief Minister’ in the country for three consecutive years as per a survey by India Today, has claimed that “anarchists who can’t bear to see development in the state are conspiring to promote communal frenzy and violence on caste lines.”
Yogi Adityanath’s approach to law enforcement is to blame those who protest. He did this with the CAA protests and is now doing it in Hathras. Not one word of sympathy for a girl who died a horrible death and was denied a decent cremation.
— Tavleen Singh (@tavleen_singh) October 6, 2020
The UP government has told the Supreme Court that the cremation of the victim’s body by the police (late into the night, keeping her family away) was to avoid “large scale violence in the morning.”
Protests all over India
Meanwhile, protests have sparked all over India against the government’s inability to control caste-based and gender-based crimes.
Congress leaders Rahul and Priyanka Gandhi have called out the police and the UP government for their high-handedness in dealing with this case. Last week, they also met the gang rape complainant, even after their first attempt was thwarted by police personnel. They were arrested under Section 188 of the Indian Penal Code for allegedly violating a public order prohibiting the assembly of four or more people.
Bhim Army Chief Chandrashekhar Azad also met the family of the gangrape victim, and demanded Y-category security for them, reported NDTV. CPI (M) Polit Bureau member Brinda Karat has also claimed that the UP government has subverted justice in the Hathras case, and called for a court-monitored investigation into the case.
(Edited by Athira Nair)