Barabanki Rape: How Many Dalit Women Have to Die Before We Acknowledge Casteism is a Pandemic?

Gender

Barabanki Rape: How Many Dalit Women Have to Die Before We Acknowledge Casteism is a Pandemic?

Illustration: Shruti Yatam

It’s been barely a few weeks since the horrific gang-rape and murder of a Dalit woman in Hathras, Uttar Pradesh, shocked the country. Since then, however, a series of crimes against women in the state — mostly from the Dalit community — has been making stomachs churn on social media.

On Thursday, the body of an 18-year-old Dalit woman was found in a field in UP’s Barabanki, the police have said, in what they suspect to be yet another horrific instance of caste-based crime. “At first glance, it appears to be a case of murder,” an officer was quoted as saying in initial reports.

The police, who conducted an autopsy report on the body, later confirmed that the young girl had been sexually assaulted before she was killed, as was alleged by the girl’s father.

The father told the police that his daughter had gone missing on Wednesday evening when she was out working in the fields. He found her body later that night. A few villagers then called in the police, who said the girl’s hands and feet had been bound and that it appeared as though she had been strangled with her own clothes.

The police later confirmed that the young girl had been sexually assaulted before she was killed, as was alleged by the girl’s father.

This incident was reported even as the rest of the country struggles to come to terms with the rise of brutal crimes against women in UP. Just earlier this week, three minor girls — aged eight, 12, and 17 years — were attacked with acid when they were asleep in their homes in UP’s Gonda district. Again, earlier this week, reports said, a 4-year-old girl was raped by her cousin in Hathras.

The CBI is, meanwhile, investigating the gruesome crime that took place in the same district a few weeks prior, which had led to protests across the country, calling out mismanagement by the UP police and administration. The 19-year-old Dalit woman, reports say, was raped and tortured by four upper-caste Thakur men on September 14. She died in hospital five days later.

During the hearing of that case, the Allahabad High Court had lashed out at the administration as well, for cremating the woman’s body in the middle of the night, which several have alleged was a move to cover up the horrific crime. The case is now being investigated in New Delhi.

But as these depressing reports keep pouring in, maybe it’s time to acknowledge that there is a serious danger posed to women from Scheduled Castes in the state. How many more deaths will it take before we accept that casteism is an epidemic that needs to be dealt with immediately?

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