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HATHRAS VICTIM: DENIED JUSTICE IN LIFE, DIGNITY IN DEATH

A 19 year-old Dalit woman, who was gang-raped by four upper caste men a fortnight ago, not only suffered brutality and injustice while alive, but was even denied dignity in death when the police and district administration of Hathras cremated her around 2.30 am on Wednesday against the wishes of the family. The brutality of the criminal assault that had left the woman paralysed following spinal injury, multiple fractures and tongue being gashed, reminded people of the Nirbhaya rape incident of seven year back when the entire nation had stood up to protest against the heinous crime that had forced the then government to take notice and the Parliament passed stringent law against such crime against women. However, Hathras incident has shown that the laws have remained on paper and women of the country are not safe despite tall claims government which has been repeatedly chanting popular slogan ‘Beti Bachao and Beti Padhao.’ 

Not only brutality of the crime, but the treatment meted out to Dalit victim and her family has also shocked the people and shaken collective conscience. The worst part is that the victim was denied the dignity in death and family was prevented the basic human rights of cremating the body of their loved one with honour and as per customs. After the victim passed away in the Safdarjung Hospital in Delhi, where she was undergoing treatment, the police whisked away the body back to Hathras and forcibly performed the last rites in the middle of the night. The repeated pleas of victim’s family that they should be allowed to take the body home one last time and cremate her in the morning as per customs, was completely ignored by the district administration. The family members were locked in their house and last rites were performed in the absence of victim’s parents. In a gross violation of the basic human rights, the family was not even allowed to see the face of the victim one last time before the cremation. The relatives protests and attempt to block the ambulance from carrying the body to the cremation ground was foiled by the heavy police deployment. The videos and photos of a lone pyre with no family members around and cops chasing media persons revealed the apathetic and inhuman attitude of the government. 

   Following a phone call from Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the Chief Minister has constituted a three member SIT to probe the matter and submit its report within seven days. However, it has failed to pacify the people who have come out on the roads at many places to protest against the law and order situation in the state. Four perpetrators of the crime belonging to the upper caste have been arrested and charged with rape murder. The Prime Minister has asked the Chief Minister to take stringent action against perpetrators of the crime.   

   However, public sentiments at present against the state government and district administration and people are agitated over the entire incident. The UP, police already under scrutiny over alleged lapses throughout the case, has come under further attack for its inexplicable rush in cremation. Political parties are targeting the Uttar Pradesh government demanding resignation of Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath. Opposition Congress has charged Yogi for failure in maintaining law and order and to protect life and dignity of Dalit woman. It has demanded that the Chief Minsiter should resign or the PM should replace him with some effective leader. Women rights activists are also up in arms, condemning the state government’s action and demanding stringent action against the culprit. 

   Former Congress chief Rahul Gandhi 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.” Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra termed the midnight cremation of the victim by police and district administration against the wishes of the family as inhuman. “The government did not protect her while she was alive. The government did not provide timely treatment when she was attacked. After the death of the victim, the government took away the right to perform the last rites of the daughter from the family. Gross inhumanity,” she said. Pointing out that crime had happened on September 14, but the Chief Minister has made a statement on the issue today after 15 days and that too after the Prime Minister phoned him. She asked, “Was he waiting for the Prime Minister’s call to take action? And wonder who gave order to the police to cremate the victim and not allow the family members to perform last rites. She demanded Yogi’s resignation over the worsening crime situation in the state. 

   All India Mahila Congress President Sushmita Dev demanded to know why FIR was not lodged in the case for eight days and why the victim kept in the normal ward of the district hospital for eight days before being shifted to hospital in Aligarh and taken to the Safdarjung hospital only at the last moment when she was on the verge of death. Dev said that the SIT would probe into the conduct of the rapists, but who will probe the conspiracy, inhuman behavior and gross and criminal negligence of the Chief Minister. She said that women of UP are being brutally murdered, raped and killed while the Prime Minister is watching. Congress leader charged the Women and Child Development Minister Smriti Irani with being a “drama queen” who has been silent and ignored the brutality of what has happened. Congress leader Udit Raj alleged that the crime against Dalits have increased in the state under the BJP rule. 

Former Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister and Samajwadi Party leader Akhilesh Yadav said that performing last rites of the victim at night was both sin and crime and against our Indian culture. He said that there was no hope left from the insensitive BJP regime. BSP leader and former Chief Minister Mayawati also attacked the state government for crime against Dalits. The Bhim Army, which had earlier held a sit in demonstration at Safdarjung Hospital, organized demonstrations in Lucknow and Hathras. In many districts of the state, people took out a candle march in support of the victim and pleaded for justice. NCP has termed the incident as unfortunate and inhuman. Women right activists have blamed the Uttar Pradesh government of robbing the dignity of victim even in death. Calling the entire incident shocking and appalling, Kavita Krishnan of the All India Progressive Women’s Association said, “This horror gives you the full picture of what this crime is all about.”

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