Gang-raped, tongue sliced, spine smashed, and murdered in cold bold. This was the atrocious fate of a 19-year-old girl in Uttar Pradesh (UP) for the simple fault of being a woman and a Dalit. On the 29th of September, Jyoti (name changed to protect the victim’s identity) succumbed to the fatal assault she had suffered at the hands of four upper-caste men while she underwent treatment. This incident yet again shook the nation to its core. It led to a huge public outcry as India was reminded of the 2012 Nirbhaya rape case of Delhi. The Hathras savagery has been attracting immense attention since it has come to light.
On 14 September 2020, Jyoti was inhumanly raped when she went to a farm to cut grass with her mother, Gayatri. Four ‘upper caste’ men Sandip, Ramu, Luvkush and Ravi dragged her with the help of the dupatta around her neck. She was gang-raped in the field and her tongue was cut off. Her spine was also severely injured in the process. As the victim resisted the rape attempts, the men tried to strangulate her. When Gayatri couldn’t see Jyoti nearby, she called out for her daughter but didn’t get an answer in return. After searching here and there, she found her daughter’s slipper lying at the corner of the millet field. With the slipper were marks engraved in the mud which clearly indicated that someone had been dragged along. As anxiety clouded Gayatri’s mind, she fearfully searched for her daughter whom she later found naked and unconscious. She quickly covered the victim’s body and her son too reached the spot. From there, they took Jyoti to the Chandpa police station where the police were reluctant to help.
The victim was initially admitted to the Jawaharlal Nehru Medical College Hospital in Aligarh but she was later shifted to Safdarjung Hospital in Delhi after her condition consistently deteriorated. Unfortunately, she lost her battle with life and passed away on 29 September 2020. Apparently the misery did not end here. At around 2:30am the same day, the Uttar Pradesh police cremated Jyoti without the consent of the family. Jyoti’s brother has claimed that the cremation was carried out forcefully and they were locked up in their house, being deprived of their right to cremate the victim or even see her face for the last time. To quote the victim’s brother Rakesh, “We have been punished twice…once when my sister was killed by the Thakur boys and the second time when the administration burnt her body in the dead of the night. All I wanted was to wait till dawn and dress up my sister in new clothes for her last journey”. An article in The Hindu mentions, “The village was turned into a police fortress and the police manhandled anyone who tried to come out of their house that night”.
Due to these allegations levelled against the Uttar Pradesh Police and administration, they had to face widespread public outrage with their integrity and intentions repeatedly being questioned. This is when the UP Government set up a Special Investigation Team (SIT). The Chief Minister (CM) of UP Mr. Yogi Adityanath also expressed his condolences to Jyoti’s family members via video conferencing. The UP government promised Rs 25 lakh, a house, and a government job to the kin of the deceased as compensation. At this point the Allahabad High Court too took suo-moto cognizance of the case. The Allahabad Court bench stated, “The incidents which took place after the death of the victim on 29.09.2020 leading up to her cremation, as alleged, have shocked our conscience”. Thus, on the 3rd October UP CM Yogi Adityanath recommended a CBI probe. Finally the case was taken over by the Criminal Bureau of Investigation (CBI), Ghaziabad unit, a week later. Recently the Supreme Court directed the Allahabad High Court to supervise the CBI probe and monitor all the aspects that entail this case.The bench headed by Chief Justice of India (CJI) SA Bobde, Justice AS Bopanna and Justice V Ramasubramanian passed this order in response to a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by Social Activist Satyama Dubey. As of now, the question to transfer the trial to Delhi from UP “has been left open” till the CBI completes its investigation.
The Hathras case has been making headlines for over a month now, primarily because of its brutality but also because of its excessive politicisation. It has grabbed attention not only from the media but also from eminent political parties and figures along with the people of the nation as a whole. But the blatant politicisation of this particular case is isolating it from the general reality. This case should not be emphasised on individually, rather it should be focused upon after putting it into context of the general conditions prevailing in the society. The Hathras brutality is a clear indicator of mainly two very imperative issues: first, the fact how casteism is still deeply engrained in the minds of the Indian populace, and secondly, how a woman by virtue of her gender is much more vulnerable to grotesque atrocities. Take for instance the statistics, we observe that in 2016 alone, more than 2,500 Dalit women were reportedly raped. Similarly, Jyoti’s fatal gang-rape by upper-caste men boldly underlines how her caste and gender identities cruelly intertwined to make her suffer this heinous crime. This type of domination on caste lines and gender bias is sinful.
Swift social change and speedy governmental affirmative action are the key solutions to put an end to these gruesome crimes. Yet, till the time these void caste or gender based prejudices don’t come to an end, these hostilities are bound to thrive. It is an urgent and pressing need of today’s times to create drastic change. Nevertheless, it is absolutely essential to remember that the onus lies on us as the people of this country as much as it lies on the government, if not more.
To conclude, right now it is extremely important that the perpetrators of such appalling and horrific violence must be severely penalised, starting with the men who committed the barbaric Hathras crime. We need and we demand speedy and appropriate justice for the Hathras victim. After all, as they say “Justice delayed is justice denied” …rightly so.