Justice Lost: In New York, Protesters Say Dalit Lives Matter. In Hathras, Upper-Caste Men Rally for Rapists

Social Commentary

Justice Lost: In New York, Protesters Say Dalit Lives Matter. In Hathras, Upper-Caste Men Rally for Rapists

Illustration: Reynold Mascarenhas

The Hathras gang-rape case once again brought India nose-to-nose with its entrenched problem with sexual violence and caste discrimination. Despite the victim claiming she was raped in her dying declaration, the truth of her claims is being questioned by right- wing, savarna organisations who are defending the four upper-caste men, belonging to the Thakur community, accused of the assault and murder. Protests demanding justice for the Hathras victim have been widespread, yet many including the Bajrang Dal, Karni Sena, Kshatriya Mahasabha, RSS, and even a leader of the ruling BJP party, reacted with indignation, rallying in support of the accused.

Rajvir Singh Pahalwan, a BJP leader and former MLA from Hathras, held a large gathering at his residence on Sunday, where members of the accused’s families as well as several right-wing organisations were in attendance to demand “justice” for the alleged rapists. Pahalwan contended that no rape had taken place at all, and called for a CBI investigation into the case. Those gathered reportedly demanded an FIR against the victim’s family.

The meet at Pahalwan’s house was able to take place despite the Uttar Pradesh police imposing Section 144 in Hathras, which prevents a gathering of four or more people.

People began staging protests and holding panchayats around Hathras, threatening the victim’s kin. A man seated at one such protest raged at Bhim Army chief Chandrashekhar Azad visiting the family, and made implied threats toward him as well. All the while, local police officers are visible in the frame, standing by while the group of protesters swells.

The police’s leniency toward the groups rallying in support of the accused rapists doesn’t appear to extend to those supporting the victim’s family. After arresting Congress leader Rahul Gandhi when he was on the way to meet the victim’s family last week, they reacted to Azad’s arrival in Hathras by filing a case against him and 400 other persons for violating Section 144.

Meanwhile, outside this epicentre of unequal treatment in Hathras, protests have been spreading against both the crime itself and the establishment’s apparent move to dismiss its seriousness. Even in the US, members of NGOs took to the streets in various cities like New York and Pennsylvania to demand justice for the Hathras victim.

However, closer to home, it appears the woman’s alleged killers are enjoying their own fair share of support. It’s yet another sad day for India’s daughters.