New Delhi: A host of feminist groups and activists have demanded a speedy investigation into the murder of Gulnaz Khatun, a 20-year-old woman who was murdered by her stalkers after refusing their sexual advances in Vaishali district of Bihar.
The statement, which has been endorsed by groups such as Bebaak Collective and Saheli and activists such as Teesta Setalvad and Sandhya Gokhale, asks why there has been no progress in the police investigation since Khatun’s death on November 15 despite her identifying her attackers in a video statement.
“There is very limited coverage about the case in electronic media and print media. According to the reports, one accused has been arrested and [the] police [are] still looking for the other two. There are also reports that the family of the victim is being harassed by the accused,” the statement said.
The statement said that over the past months, there has been an increase in crimes and violence against women across different sections of class, caste and religion. It said there is total apathy and insensitiveness and bias against the communities to which victims belong and the silence of the political dispensation which gives “total impunity” to the police in such cases has led to ‘silence on such brutalities’.
Most of the victims are from very poor and marginalised communities and hence such incidents also fail to elicit any response from civil society, the statement says. “But the unprecedented and disturbing trend of the police functioning with total impunity, not registering FIRs and cremating bodies against the wishes of the family is something that has to stop,” the signatories said.
Describing the National Commission for Women and the State Commission for Women as “toothless”, the signatories said these bodies should take cognisance of the violence that they were set up to counter.
“We strongly urge the Central and state government to take cognisance of this case as it is not just a matter one Gulnaz, but that the silence and impunity to police and the culprits will only contribute to an increase in violence on women resulting in more control on their freedom, mobility and opportunities in life,” the statement concludes.
The signatories demanded that all culprits should be arrested soon, that the victim’s family should be protected and compensated for the loss. The government must ensure a fair and speedy investigation and trial in a fast track court, they added, saying police officers who have “failed to act should be held accountable by due process”.
The full statement, along with the list of signatories, has been reproduced below.
Statement Condemning the murder of Gulnaz Khatun and demanding a speedy investigation
We the undersigned feminist groups, activists and individuals are deeply anguished at the killing of a 20-year-old poor Muslim girl, Gulnaz in a village in Bihar‘s Vaishali district. The young girl, an economic support to the family and about to be married was killed after her stalkers poured kerosene oil on her and burnt her alive on 30 October 2020. The girl was admitted in a nearby hospital with 75 percent burns and later moved to Patna Medical College. In her video statement when she was in excruciating pain, she clearly identified the three attackers. She succumbed to her injuries on 15th November 2020. The case has made hardly any progress. There is very limited coverage about the case in electronic Media and print media. According to the reports one accused has been arrested and police is still looking for the other two. There are also reports that the family of victim is being harassed by the accused.
Since the last many months, we are not only witnessing an increase in crimes and violence against women across class, caste and religion. The total apathy, insensitiveness and bias against the communities to which victims belong, silence of political dispensation which gives a total impunity to police in such cases, and most of these victims of violence are from very poor and marginalised communities, so marginalised even to elicit any response from the civil society, leading to silence on such brutalities. But the unprecedented and disturbing trend of the police functioning with total impunity, not registering FIRs and cremating bodies against the wishes of the family is something that has to stop.
The impunity with which police is functioning is unfortunately not an entirely new phenomenon. Under the current political regime, the Police is indeed the arm of the State, the arm of Brahminical Casteist State with Hindutva as its ideology. On paper, the Police is the first and most important state agency to whom people go to for the redressal of their complaints. If their complaints are not registered, cases are not pursued and investigated with diligence, sincerity and with a sense of accountability, then there is no hope for justice for the people especially poor and the marginalised. But the Police in this case and in others, has done everything in its power to deny justice to the survivors and their families.
We are also aghast at the toothless existence of the National Commission for Women and the State Commission for Women which have to be urged to do their job, and take cognisance of the violence that they were set up to counter in the first place.
It is highly disturbing that there have been no assurances from the newly elected government of Bihar that justice will be done to Gulnaz. And it is not a coincidence that the case was not brought to light before the polling got over in Bihar. The role of media remains unnerving and distressing with its selective and opportune sensationalizing of the cases of violence against women.
There is no public information on where the case stands today. Whether there have been arrests of the accused and where does the investigation stand? We strongly urge the Central and State government to take cognisance of this case as it is not just a matter one Gulnaz, but that the silence and impunity to police and the culprits will only contribute to increase in violence on women resulting in more control on their freedom, mobility and opportunities in life.
We strongly demand:
- All culprits be arrested soon
- Victim’s family should be protected.
- Victim’s family be paid compensation for the loss.
- The government must ensure fair and speedy investigation and trial in fast track court.
- The police officers who have failed to act should be held accountable by due process.
Bebaak Collective voice of fearless, Mumbai
Forum Against Oppression of Women
Teesta Setalvad, Mumbai
Khairunnisha, Parwaaz Sanstha
Uma chakravarti, Historian, Delhi
Sandhya Gokhale, Activist, Mumbai.
Ram Puniyani, Center for Study of Society and Secularism.
Vani Subramanian, Independent Film-maker, New Delhi
Javed Anand, Journalist Activist, Mumbai
Gabriele Dietrich, Pennurimai Iyakkam, TN
Rohini Hensman, Writer and Researcher Mumbai
Nandita Gandhi, Akshara, Mumbai
Brinelle D’souza, TISS, JCoR, JSA-MUMBAI
Sophia khan, Ahmedabad
Arundhati Dhuru NAPM
Richa Rastogi Humsafar Lucknow
Manjula Pradeep, Ahmedabad
Amrita Nandy, Delhi
Researcher Ujwala Mhatre , Mumbai
Abha bhaiya, Delhi
Rajashri Dasgupta on behalf of Sachetana, Kolkata
Dyuti, PhD Researcher, Social Anthropology, University of Sussex
Raynah Braganza Passanha, Indian Women Theologians Forum
Virginia Saldanha, Indian Christian Women’s Movement
Amrita Shodhan, Hong Kong
Prabha Kotiswaran, King’s College London
Sheba George , Ahmedabad
Sabah Khan , Mumbai
Simantini Dhuru, Film Maker, Mumbai
Vrijendra , Mumbai
Kamayani Bali Mahabal, Feminist and Human Rights Activist
Pragnya Joshi, Consultant, Research & Training for Gender & Development
Anuradha Pati, Sandhya Phadke Mumbai
Johanna Lokhande , Pune
Irfan Engineer, Mumbai
Meera Sanghamitra, National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM)
Lara Jesani, Advocate, Mumbai
Aruna Burte, Concerned citizen
D.W. Karuna, Individual
Samira Nadkarni, Individual
Prabha Nagaraja (She/Her/Hers) Executive Director
Bittu, THITS, WSS
Shewli Kumar, Associate Professor, Centre for Women Centred TISS Mumbai
Kavin Malar, Vineeta Bal, Pune
Swatija Paranjape, Ahmedabad
Parwaaj Sanghatan, Ahmedabad
Hiren Gandhi, DARSHAN Organization, Ahmedabad, Gujarat
Dr Saroop Dhruv, DARSHAN Organization, Ahmedabad, Gujarat
Monisha Behal, Northeast
Manisha Gupte, Feminist Activist
Sana Contractor, Independent Researcher Delhi
Jinat Rehana Islam, Feminist .com
Bilal Khan, Ghar Bachao, Ghar Banao, Andolan
Anita Dhole, Ghar Bachao, Ghar Banao, Andolan
Jameela Begum, Ghar Bachao, Ghar Banao, Andolan
Seema Baquer,CrossDisability Professional. Delhi
Sunita Sheel, Pune
Anuradha Kapoor, Swayam Kolkata
Johana Lokhande, Pune
Sandali Thakur, Independent Researcher, Pune
Kouchurani Abraham, Kerala
Muniza Khan, Human Rights Activists, Varanasi
Hameeda Khatun, Youth Activist, UP
Anam Mitra, Mariwala Health Initiative, Delhi
Reshma Aura, Baroda
Chhaya Dattar, Retired Professor from Women Studies, TISS
Maya Parmod, Research Scholar, Writer Kerala
Sangita Rege, Health Researcher, Mumbai
Samira Nadkarni, Mumbai
Hritik Lalan, Mumbai
Sofiya Khan, Ahmedabad
Nikhat Khan, Bhopal
Geeta Thackra, Bengaluru
Sadhna Arya, Saheli, Delhi
Vani Subarmanyan, Film Maker, Delhi
Julie Gorge, Advocate
Aruna Bhute, Concerned Citizen
Sunita Bagal Feminist Activist, Mumbai
Sadab Jahan, Muzzuffarnagar
Kehkasha Beg, Video Volunteer, Lucknow
Zeenab Siddique, Gender Rights Activist Lucknow
Samina Deewan, Ahmedabad
Shabana Diler Agricultural Activists Pune
Pushali Basat Feminist Activist Mumbai
Saba Khan, Mumbai.
Bittu Kondaih, Hyderabad
Amarjit Singh, Mumbai
Amrita Howlie, Kolkata
Aleyamma Vijayan Secretary, Sakhi Women’s resource center,Trivandrum, Kerala.
Rita Puthenkalam, IWTF
Palashi Vaghela PHD Scholar, Cornel University, Canada
Dr. Asma Rasheed, Assistant Professor, EFL University Hyderabad.