Opposition Says Hathras Rape Is Proof of Exploitative Caste Hierarchy Under Adityanath's Rule

Under pressure, the UP chief minister has set up an SIT which has been asked to submit its report in seven days.

New Delhi: A day after opposition parties expressed outrage at the death of the 19-year-old Dalit woman after four men raped her in Hathras, Uttar Pradesh, Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke to the state’s chief minister Adityanath, and asked for the “strictest” punishment to the accused.

The woman had suffered multiple fractures and her tongue had also been cut off by the perpetrators of the crime died at the Safdarjung hospital on Monday, after getting initial treatment at the Jawahar Lal Nehru Medical College and Hospital of the Aligarh Muslim University. She was attacked by four men when she had gone to collect firewood on September 14. The accused persons ‒ Sandip, Ramu, Lavkush and Ravi ‒  belong to the Thakur caste and have been arrested.

In the wee hours of Wednesday, the UP police did not let the woman’s family see her body, locked all family members up, and cremated her body. This state administration’s highhandedness and alleged insensitivity has been at the receiving end of criticisms from various quarters.

The matter has snowballed into a political controversy with the opposition parties launching protests across the state and in the national capital. Adityanath has been facing much flak from the opposition and civil society alike over his handling of law and order situation in the state, which have been witness to multiple incidents of rapes, murders, and other brutal crimes in the recent past.

The opposition’s hue and cry over the 19-year-old’s death has once again foregrounded the deteriorating law and order situation in India’s most populous state. Anti-BJP parties have also highlighted further calcification of the exploitative caste hierarchy in the state under Adityanath rule. The fact that all the accused in the case belong to the feudal Thakur community, which is perceived to have become powerful under the BJP chief minister ‒ who also belongs to the same caste group, has lent further weight to the opposition campaign.

Also Read: UP Police Locked Us Up, Didn’t Allow Us to See Body, Cremated Her at 3 am: Hathras Victim’s Family

One may note that several clashes between the Thakur and Dalit communities have been reported in the western region of UP in the past few years.

The Congress has been at the forefront of a state-wide campaign against the BJP over the issue. The  party’s general secretary in-charge of the state Priyanka Gandhi pointed out a pattern of such crimes of sexual violence against women while highlighting similar incidents in Shahajahanpur and Gorakhpur in the recent past.

“The law and order situation in Uttar Pradesh has completely deteriorated. There is no sign of any safety for women. Criminals are roaming freely,” she alleged, demanding strict punishment for the guilty.

“Instead of protecting the victim and her family, your government became complicit in depriving her of every single human right, even in death. You have no moral right to continue as chief minister,” she said in another tweet.

In a series of tweets, former Congress president Rahul Gandhi held the UP government responsible for the death of the Dalit woman. “All this is a shameful move of the UP government to suppress Dalits and show them their ‘place’ in the society. Our fight is against this hateful thinking,” Rahul Gandhi said in a Hindi tweet.

He had previously tweeted, “A daughter of India is raped, facts are suppressed, and in the end the right to funeral is also taken away from her family. It is abusive and unjust.”

The Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati on Tuesday demanded that the accused should be tried in a fast-track court. “The news of the death of Dalit victim after gangrape in Hathras, UP is very saddening. The government should provide all possible help to the victim’s family and ensure fast punishment to the culprits by prosecuting them in a fast track court. This is the demand of the BSP,” she had said.

On Wednesday, she slammed the state police for cremating the woman’s body without her family’s consent. She sought the intervention of the Supreme Court immediately after the alleged police’s highhandedness and said that the “attitude of the UP government and police reflects poorly on their intention to ensure justice for the woman.”

Terming the Adityanath government as “insensitive” to the plight of women in the state, former Uttar Pradesh chief minister and Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav said, “There is no hope left from this insensitive government.”

He also lashed out at the police’s “insensitive action” on Tuesday night and alleged that the police officials were acting under pressure from the state government.

The Aam Aadmi Party chief and Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal said that the death of the Dalit woman was a matter of shame for the country. “The death of Hathras victim is shameful for the entire society, country as well as for all the governments. It’s highly sad that so many daughters are being sexually assaulted and we have not been able to protect them. The guilty must be hanged at the earliest,” he tweeted.

Delhi Commission for Women chairperson Swati Maliwal demanded capital punishment for the guilty. “They broke her spine and cut her tongue. She died in Delhi today. Everyday, women are falling prey to the crimes and the government is least bothered.” She also shot off a letter to the Chief Justice of India S.A.Bobde to seek his immediate intervention.

The Hathras case has become a tipping point for many who have been highlighting police inaction in recent incidents of rape in Lakhimpur Kheri, Maharajganj, and other districts. Many other opposition leaders and celebrities have come out in support of the quest for justice in the case. Many among them slammed the state government for failing to ensure a safe environment for women in UP.

Communist Party of India (ML-Liberation) leader and feminist activist Kavita Krishnan in her tweet said that the Hathras incident was not an exception, but that it rather reflects the systemic violence that Dalits face in their everyday lives.

“With 51,824 cases of crime against SCs registered under PoA Act between 2009 and 2018, UP ranks 1st among in the category with 22.38% of total crime. Speak about justice in those 51824 (& more) cases if you’re interested in justice for the Hathras victim,” she pointed out, while highlighting a poor conviction rate in such cases.

The CPI(M) politburo issued a statement saying the woman’s death is the result of the “callous approach” of the government.

“This barbaric caste based rape crime is reflective of the utter lawlessness in UP under the BJP Government and the patronage given to casteist and reactionary forces leading to a big increase in crimes against dalits and women. The recent NCRB report confirms this.

The CPI(M) demands action against the police personnel who refused to file an FIR and also against those responsible for the cruel act of forcible cremation,” the statement says.

Even as Uttar Pradesh CM Adityanath set up a three-member Special Investigation Team to probe the case, BJP national general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya seemed to hint that the accused could be killed in an ‘encounter’. The SIT has been asked to give its report in seven days.

Vijayvargiya made an apparent reference to the killing of gangster Vikas Dubey, who was killed after the vehicle carrying him toppled. The police claimed Dubey shot at the cops, but many observers believe that he was killed in a fake encounter.