Derby People are deeply alarmed at the news of a brutal gang rape and murder of a 19-year-old Dalit woman in the district of Hatras in Uttar Pradesh. The alleged rape was carried out on 14 September 2020, by four upper-caste men who then left her for dead, with a cut to her tongue and injuries to her neck and spine. She was found by her relatives in the fields, they were working, by her relatives who took her to hospital and reported the incident to the police. Due to lack of proper medical care her health deteriorated for fourteen days before was shifted to a hospital in Delhi, where she died fifteen days after her attack.
The police refused to register an FIR to record the rape despite the girl’s video recorded statement that named the rapist. The police arrested the accused but only registered an FIR of attempted murder, not rape. The UP administration ordered the police to cremate the victim’s body which was done in the dead of the night at 2.30am, without the consent of her family, who were denied even sight of the body, leave aside perform the last rites. This unconstitutional action of the police has raised serious questions of tampering with the evidence of rape and affording protection to the upper caste perpetrators of the crime. What is more alarming is that the upper-caste local community has been allowed to mobilise in defence of the rapist and against the Dalit outrage.
One journalist (Caravan) has been arrested for probing deeper into the incident and charged under the Unlawful Atrocities Prevention Act (UAPA) and several more have also been locked-up seriously. Atrocities against the Dalits has been going on for centuries. Dalits are mainly those who have been pushed beneath the lowest category of the four varnas system of castes specified and practiced in the Hindu religion. Those that fall below the four varna system have historically been known as the ‘untouchable’ in India. Today they are known as Dalits, a collective term given to people historically coming from a whole range of low-castes and oppressed sections of society.
There has always been continued oppression of the Dalit communities in India. The Dalits have from time to time put up brave resistance against this oppression. The recent years of Dalit assertion for their democratic and constitutional rights has seen increased retaliation from the Hindutva forces backed by the current PM Modi’s BJP led government. It is a well-known fact that the present Modi government is engaged in the Hindutva project of replacing the existing secular Constitution of India, accredited to its chief architect Dr B R Ambedkar, with an alternative Manu based rules and regulations. The idea of India based on socialist, secular, democratic republic is to be thrown out by the existing Indian government and replaced by a monolithic religious state that imposes Hindutva rule.
Dalit resistance to the Hindutva project has been going on for many years. In Maharashtra, Dalits have always celebrated the incident that took place in 1 Jan 1818 – Bhima Koregaon, near Pune. This incident remembers the few hundred low caste Maratha solders who, enlisted in the East India Company, fought and defeated tens of thousands strong Peshwa’s casteist rule. In 2018 very many Dalit organisations, academics, students and social activists decided to make a big celebration to mark the 200th anniversary of Bhima Koregaon victory – a tradition that has been going on for years. This event led by two retired judges, was planned to be a big event. One to two lakhs were expected to gather for the bicentenary. Very many well-known public speakers, poets and dramatist were expected to appear throughout the two to three-day event. Messages of solidarity, standing firm against the Dalit oppression, in peaceful manner were to be delivered.
The actual day of the celebration 1 Jan 2018 saw riots in and around Bhima Koregaon. These riots saw destruction of property and one person die as a result. The common cry amongst the Dalits was that local Hindutva leaders, Milland Ekbote and Sambhaji Bhide, had generated the anti-Dalit hysteria and organised the violence. The states response was to arrest Ekbote and release him on bail but Bhide remains absconding to this day. In contrast, very many writers, poets, drama artists, members of Kabir Kala Manch, who took part in the Bhima Koregaon celebrations were picked-up by the police and have been in prison since January 2018. Since then there has been an unprecedent State conspiracy to shut-up all voices of decent against the Government.
The action of the Dalits to assert their democratic rights seems to have frightened the Indian State to such an extent that it has developed a fascistic desire to lock-up anyone who speaks against the Government. This has resulted in rounding up of lawyers, academics, artist, poets and social activists. On 8 June 2018 the India State arrested five people, Surendra Gadling (lawyer), Sudhir Dhawale (Dalit activist), Rona Wilson (political prisoner activist), Shoma Sen (professor), Maheshi Raut (Adivasi activist). The State invented the ‘Urban Naxal’ tag, applied it to these five people, falsely accused them of instigating the Bhima-Koregaon violence and slapped the ridiculous charge of planning to kill PM Modi. These arrests were later extended to Vara Vara Rao (poet, activist), Sudha Bharadwaj (lawyer), Arun Ferreira (lawyer), Vernon Gonsalves (writer, Dalit & Adivasi activist), Guatam Navlakha (journalist, human rights activist) and Anand Teltumbde (professor in management/technology) who is the grandson in-law of Dr BR Ambedkar.
The Bhima Koregaon 16
In the last few months, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) arrested Hani Babu (DU prof, Dalit activist), Sagar Gorkhe member of cultural group Kabbir Kala Manch, Christian activist Ramesh Gaichor and Jyoti Jagtap. The latest insane arrest is of an ailing 83-year-old Farther Stan Swamy who has worked all his life for the betterment of the oppressed Tribal and Dalit people. Using fabricated evidence, all sixteen arrested have been falsely accused of keeping links with the banned Maoist Party, planning the Bhima Koregaon violence, plotting to assassinate PM Modi and overthrow the Indian Government. They are being held under the most draconian UAPA law and could remain in prison for many years without trial, without justice, as is often the case in India. There is the case of Professor G N Saibaba who has tirelessly worked to expose the unjust displacement of Adivasi in the jungles of India to make way for the mining corporations to loot the land. He was arrested on May 9, on charges of having Maoist links. Prof Saibaba who is 90% physically handicapped and has been wheelchair bound all his adult life. He has been kept in solitary confinement, in ‘anda cell’ since his conviction on March 2017.
Prof G N Saibaba
The arrests of above mentioned human and democratic rights activists have come to the lime light because of their high professional and social standing in society. There are however thousands of other activists facing similar, unjustified, imprisonment who are less well known. Their real ‘crime’ is exposing the injustices happening to the Dalits, Adivasi, Minorities, Women and LGBTs in India’s feudal setup, sponsored by the multinational corporations. The BJP led Indian Government is responding by circumventing all norms of democratic procedures and crushing all forms of decent using the most draconian measures. The Indian authorities do not want the voices of justice to be heard, particularly outside India. This month the Indian Government has taken reprehensible steps to freeze the bank accounts of Amnesty International -Indian office, thus effectively shutting down their operations.
Since the horrific gang rape of the Dalit woman in Hatras, many more such brutalities have been reported in Utter Pradesh, Bihar, etc. The most recent one occurred in Delhi on October 4, where a 17-year-old Dalit girl was thought to have been raped and then hanged in the house where she was a domestic labourer. The Delhi police called it suicide, ignored the cries of rape and moved quickly to cremate the girl’s body. To destroy evidence of rape, one may wonder. The parent’s cry of foul play has been met with police beatings, threats and deafening silence from the media.
Derby Against Caste Atrocities in India demands:
-Rapist Murderers are quickly brought to justice
-Police who burnt the victim’s body are charged for violating the law
-End to Caste Atrocities
-Release All Political Prisoners
Supported by: Guru Ravidas Sabha Derby; Indian Scheduled Caste Welfare Assoc. UK; Indian Workers Association Derby.