Beyond the tragedy
As the nation boils in indignation over the atrocity of the Hathras incident, the varied contexts and causes behind these crimes are often forgotten, discounting society’s role in preventing such tragedies
It is in the limelight of such gruesome events that one finds the severity of acts, even the ones of sexual brutality, as common as other social transgressions. The Hathras gang rape is a classic precedent of what has happened in the past and what continues to wantonly take place. It is as if we never forget resurrecting the social conundrum of discrimination and ethnic maiming, which has now become the genetic reality of our society which feeds off our ignorance and blatant disregard for civil justice. The Hathras gang rape shouldn't come as a surprise to our peruses given the fact that the State of Uttar Pradesh witnessed the highest number of crimes against women with a total of 59,683 active cases during the year 2019 as stipulated by the National Crime Record Bureau. One doesn't attempt to pry over the deplorable conditions we seem to barrage women with, however, what triggers the incapacitating unpleasantness of such societal experiences is that we find it convenient enough to play the blame game amidst the occurrence of such vehement proceedings. Amongst your daily dose of bustling news, what truly seems to send a shiver through your nerves was the Hathras 'kand' that took place in the Hathras district of Uttar Pradesh some 200 km from Delhi, on September 14, 2020.
With massive protests in full spring, the district continues to be under the prohibitory imposition of Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPc) with police forces from five districts and PAC companies being deployed at the epicentre of the crisis. Whilst, Uttar Pradesh CM's Special Investigation Team (SIT) is on the case with the alleged arrested, however, keeping the concealed reality in mind where so far rape has not been the delinquency responsible for the demise of the victim. The incident which took place on September 14, 2020, saw a 19-year-old Dalit girl who was performing her daily chores along with her mother in the field, when the victim was abruptly dragged away with her dupatta wrapped around her neck intensively, injuring her spinal cord, leaving her paralysed. Initially, as an immediate response to what had happened, she was taken to the Chandpa police station where her agony filled narration of the crime she was a victim to was viciously ignored and dismissed by the police, with the victim's formal statement recorded a week later from the time of the act. As per the victim's medical information rests, she was admitted to the Jawahar Lal Nehru Medical College (Aligarh). Later, she was shifted to Safdarjung Hospital with the severity of her condition deteriorating by the day. As scored by her medical report, she died on September 29, 2020, due to "injury to the cervical spine by blunt force trauma", as mentioned in her autopsy report.
Contrary to what bigotry fuelled news tracks stated is the fact that the final post mortem report clearly signifies old tears in the genitals of the victim but no signs of rape. The reminiscence of fake news continued to fool people till a senior Uttar Pradesh Police officer, mustered the social acumen and claimed that no semen was found in the forensic report of the victim and that the medical intel was tweaked so as to ignite inter-caste rivalry. The rivalry in question is not just being gambled and exposed between castes but even the caste-based institutions, ranging from the Rashtriya Savarna Parishad (RSP) to the Bhim Army both of which remain deafly muted in what they perceive as their gospel truth. Another factor that added fuel to the fire of disciplinary brutality was the cremation of the victim which was carried out hurriedly at about 2 pm on September 29, 2020, by the Uttar Pradesh Police. Not to overlook the fact that the religious head responsible for carrying out the cremation seems to be confident of his actions and provides scriptural evidence as justification which clearly stipulates that in extreme situations, cremations can be carried out during the night so as to uphold the kin's integrity and dignity. In relation to this, the family claims that their consent was negated and they were put under house arrest, contrary to what ADG Prashant Kumar stated while claiming that the family's consent was their top priority.
The Hathras Police fixated on having arrested the four accused namely Sandeep, Ravi, Ramu and Luvkush on charges of gang rape and attempt to murder under the 'Scheduled Caste, and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocity Act 1989)', according to which atrocities of any kind against SC & ST's are worth prosecution. This is exactly what makes one question the very presence of laws and seek to identify their credibility to serve justice and strengthen the democratic fabric this country once based and continues to stand firmly on.
The State Government under the Yogi administration has to an extent left no stone unturned to smoothen the bitter experience of the victims family by addressing a compensation of Rs 25 lakh to the victim's family in addition to which a junior assistant job for a family member and a house in the district of Hathras under the State Urban Development Agent Scheme (SUDA) have also been made available. In the entirety of the situation, opposing claims have been made by the family members of the victim, where her brother was waging an argument that the accused were not arrested on informing of the crime as well as the stagnancy in the reaction of the police parallel to what the police asserts was a case in which action was taken on their part as soon as the first statement of the victim was recorded. If statistics become the premise of a voluminous source, it becomes imperative to reveal the substantial rise of the crimes against the SC & ST women from 7 per cent to 26 per cent according to the National Crime Record Bureau (NCRB). The very diluted and sublimed registration of the crimes being recorded under the POA proves that very few cases alleging specific discrimination based on caste and tribal identities get recognised and defined under Section 3 of the POA.
The Hathras 'kand' can be either be seen as a tragedy or as a milestone to finally develop the ability to gauge socially distressing happenings in the making, amidst the glitched news kneading and political argy-bargy where one must serve as the 'prasashan's' eyes and ears, actively scrutinising existing laws and participating in bringing about the societal changes that are required to prevent such tragedies. History, without a doubt, pays its blood-stained testimony to such incidents whether it was the Aruna Shanbaug case, the Kathua rape case, the Ruchika Girhotra case or the Nirbhya rape case which seems to resemble what took place on September 14 this year. All these bone-chilling incidents of the past have left a blot on our society that India today has become synonymous to women inequality, injustice and unfair treatment, mainly basing this attitudinal difference on their physical vulnerability and the very social upheaval women go through in their daily life is rendered worthless when their body is abused while alive and criticised when dead.
Today the most important instrument of assuring justice is the very comprehension of the law pertaining to the crimes associated with women. The setting up of the Justice Verma Committee in the case of the Nirbhaya was a step in realising and highlighting the gross misappropriation taking place in the society similar to which the Hathras gang rape case could benefit from the setting up of such a committee that targets, the evidential components of the case. The unacceptable Hathras 'kand' ultimately is pointing towards history's insufferable tendency of repeating itself. Further dissecting the ghastly incident in the above-mentioned context, gender and caste insensitivity is merely the social skeleton of the issue, rather the diameter of the core of the incident is so elongated, interconnected and complex that it is essential to not hold preconceived notions. Our complex history which provides for an abundant record of the highly placed position of women today seeks the answer while standing on the crossroad as to why their progeny is being deprived of the deserving equal position which has been the tradition and the established dictum since time immemorial. The victim fought not only with her grievous injuries but also against exclusion that drains our society of its rich civilisation moorings; perhaps it was the resilience of the victim's ancestry and our cultural fugue that continues to infest our present identity and that's what made the victim meet this undefeatable end in reference to which one cannot expect the administration to be the supreme performer of all civil duties, rather a share of this burden falls on all our shoulders.
It is between the fringes of democratic presentation and political branding of both ends that the victim seems to have been forgotten, her dilemma contaminated and suffering commercialised and is now observed to be a matter of who's right and who's not rather than reinstating the momentum of law and order where at the macro level, the base truth remains untainted and unhidden — a girl, a lower caste and a victim of brutality.
The writer is a human rights activist