The gruesome rape and murder of a young Dalit woman in Hathras has caused immense grief and rage. While dignity was denied to her by an oppressive social order when she was alive, the caste Hindu society denied her her rightful due after death. The UP Police, refusing to heed the pleas of her family, burnt the corpse at midnight.
The shock and grief caused by this macabre caste crime is beyond measure, yet it is by no means a surprise. It can be attributed to the sinister caste hierarchy based on graded social inequality and Brahmanical patriarchy that viciously disciplines and punishes the Dalit body, especially that of the Dalit woman. Such caste and patriarchal dominance and the resultant exploitation when combined with Hindu supremacist ideas, subscribed to by both the Narendra Modi and Yogi Adityanath regimes, become more hideous and perverse.
The insensitivity displayed by the police and UP’s BJP regime towards the dead Dalit girl, even trampling upon the dignity due to a dead person, speaks of the appalling state of governance in our country. Therefore, this crime in Hathras must be seen from the perspectives of caste, patriarchy and Hindu supremacist ideology which are pushing our society and nation into multiple crises and denting India’s image at the global level.
Yogi Adityanath continues to defend the violent idea of the Hindu Rashtra, which is deepening the existing caste stratification, fuelling atrocities and making Dalits, particularly Dalit women, vulnerable to lynching, abuse, sexual violence and murder. The nexus between the casteist police machinery and the government of UP has been laid bare for all to see. The delayed medical care, destruction of evidence and the worst of all, dismissing the dying declaration of the victim — she named four upper caste men for having raped her — are indicative of the intentions of the state machinery.
According to the NCRB data, in the past few years, crimes against Dalits are on the rise while the conviction rate has substantially fallen. The official statistics further indicate that UP is leading in crimes against Dalits, especially Dalit women. With Yogi Adityanath as the chief minister, the government machinery has unabashedly colluded with the caste elites to serve the latter’s interests. In the Unnao rape case and the Chinmayanand case, the BJP government shielded the perpetrators.
The manner in which the upper castes were allowed to organise a meeting in defence of the accused clearly revealed the bias of the UP administration. The threat issued by the district magistrate to the victim’s family to change their statement testifies to the horrifying subscript of favouring those who have been held for allegedly committing the crime against the Dalit girl.
Project Hindu Rashtra has intensified caste oppression. B R Ambedkar had prophesied that the idea of Hindu Rashtra would result in calamity. In 1946, Ambedkar, referring to the bias of British police towards the high castes, wrote: “Owing to the preponderance of caste Hindus in the subordinate police and revenue services, the government was already, from the point of view of the untouchables, not a British but a Hindu one.”
That governance in several states is shaped by the Hindutva ideology seven decades after Independence, does not augur well for our Republic. The Hindutva regime is constantly cooking up conspiracy theories to delegitimise dissent. All voices and forms of dissent and challenges to the authoritarian agenda of the current regime are being targeted with UAPA and sedition charges. The constitutional right to freedom of speech and expression is being denied to citizens.
When the anti-CAA agitation intensified in UP, Chief Minister Adityanath famously stated that he would take revenge against the protesters. Now he is using the same language against those who are agitating for justice to the Hathras victim. The government is threatening to invoke sedition laws against the people protesting against the ghastly tragedy through lawful methods. This mode of action recalls previous instances of abuse of law by the UP administration, which booked protesters, particularly Muslims, agitating against the CAA under the National Security Act.
The annihilation of caste has never been a more urgent cause.
This article first appeared in the print edition on October 14, 2020 under the title ‘An area Of darkness’. The writer is General Secretary, CPI. He visited Hathras and met the victim’s family as part of a joint delegation of CPI and CPI(M) members on October 6.