New Delhi: Several prominent activists, academics and scholars from across the globe have joined hands to condemn the Hathras case, saying an alarming number of rapes and killings have been reported in India just in the last month.
While more than 1,800 people have endorsed the statement, among the prominent ones are Angela Davis, Gloria Steinem, Maude Barlow, Barbara Harris-White, Chandra Talpade Mohanty, Arjun Appadurai, Shailaja Paik, Suraj Yengde, Rod Ferguson, Katherine McKittrick, Margo Okazawa-Rey, Laura Pulido, Huma Dar, Nida Kirmani and Meena Dhanda. Among the signatories are academics, professionals and individuals from the US, Canada, Europe, UK, Latin America, Africa, and Asia-Pacific.
The rising cases of sexual violence bear witness to the “escalation of centuries-old structural violence against Dalit women under extremist Hindutva’s reign of terror in recent times”, the signatories said. They called for the prosecution of the dominant caste men and police who committed the “heinous crimes in Hathras and in all other recent cases” and demanded that the “attacks on activists and journalists and the repression of dissent in India stop immediately”.
The statement notes that while the death of George Floyd at the hands of a white police officer in Minneapolis has reignited the Black Lives Matter Movement in the US and elsewhere, the rapes and murders of Dalit women in UP by dominant-caste men “have galvanized tens of thousands of protestors across the world to rise up against the police state that operates in the service of violent Hindutva in India”.
In a video statement, philosopher and political activist Angela Davis emphasized the need to forge meaningful international solidarity against the structures of white supremacy and casteism. She points to the long history of connections between the Black and Dalit communities.
Ruth Manorama, the president of the National Federation of Dalit Women in India, also echoed Davis’s exhortation for solidarity between the two communities.
Other signatories said the cases of rapes and murders are symptomatic of an “authoritarian regime” that is arresting intellectuals, students, writers, artists, civil liberties lawyers, and activists. They highlighted the need to unite the cries of Black Lives Matter, Dalit Lives Matter and Muslim Lives Matter and all other movements for human dignity. They emphasised the need for social justice movements to speak in one voice and express transnational solidarity.
Christopher Queen, a religious studies scholar, drew parallels between racialised and caste-based violence. “Like the violent racism in the United States, which is allowed by corrupt officials and callous citizens, the escalating brutalization of Dalit citizens, particularly women and girls, is a growing plague at the heart of a nation claiming to uphold democratic institutions and humane values,” he said.