“17-year old Thakur girl raped and murdered in Uttar Pradesh.” Shocking? Yes. Would this make it to the front-page headlines? Definitely. We urge our readers to go through whichever physical newspaper he/she follows and go through the last 3 days’ front news and find this incident. When the baffled reader won’t be able to find the news, we would tell them that he/she couldn’t find it simply because it did not happen. The reader would be enraged at us for seemingly ‘joking’ about rape. Let us risk that rage for a while to introduce another headline.
“17-year old Dalit girl raped and murdered in Uttar Pradesh.” Shocking? Yes. Would it make it to the front-page headlines? It should. We urge our readers to go through whichever physical newspaper he/she follows and go through the last 3 days’ front news and find this incident. When the baffled reader won’t be able to find the news, we would ask them to wonder why he/she couldn’t find the news – because it most definitely happened.
And with that, we answer the question that many readers have raised at times. “Why mention the caste of the victim?” We mention the caste because it is important to pay notice to it. We mention the caste to point out that it is almost always that a Dalit girl who gets raped. We mention the caste to highlight the fact that crime against Dalit women has been so normalized that the rape and murder news of a Dalit minor does not make it to the front page headlines whereas the same of an upper-caste girl would have sent ripples across the societal fabric of the State.
The facts of the incident are simple. It might give one a sense of déjà vu.
The accused was watering a wheat crop around noon on February 28, when the victim came to the field to collect fodder for her goats. “He was watching a porn film on his mobile. He tried to sexually assault the girl and when she resisted, he strangulated her with her chunni (stole). He then dragged her body for a few meters to hide it in another field,” Mr. Muniraj, Senior Superintendent of the Police, Aligarh, said to The Hindu.
Police sources said the accused knew the deceased as he used to go to her village to fetch milk. He knew that the girl had a speech impairment. When she went to drink water from the water canal near the tree where he was sitting, he overpowered her and forced her to indulge in unnatural sex. When she refused, he first smothered her face and then strangulated her. He dragged her body and placed it in the field of a resident of her village so that suspicion would fall on him.
The 17-year-old victim was living with her maternal grandmother. The postmortem report indicated death by strangulation. Injury marks were found on the face, neck, and chest. Her skin had been peeled off and there were deep nail marks on her breasts.
An FIR has been registered against the unidentified persons under sections 376 (rape), 302 (murder) of the Indian Penal Code, and the POCSO Ac in the matter. The police have arrested 12 suspects in the matter and have preserved the vaginal and rectal swabs of the victim for forensic analysis.
The question is why does this keep happening? From Hathras to Unnao to Akrabad. Is it because at the helm of the State sits a thug with no moral conscience in the name of a ‘Yogi’? Is it because that man is a compulsive liar who has blatantly denied the worsening condition of women’s safety even though there have been undisputed statistics about crime against women published by central agencies?
Ask yourselves the question of why statewide public programs to ensure the safety and rights of women – projects, shelters, helplines – have become defunct over the last few years, neglected, drained of funds, or simply shut down. Why after 2017, the political environment has been against all women’s rights movements in UP. Why Institutional aid and assistance for female Dalit survivors gradually dwindled post-2017 and has almost vanished in the last two years. Why UP recorded the highest increase in crime against women, 66.7%, over the four years to 2019 and the second-highest increase in cases of rape against Scheduled Castes women in the same period – 20.67%. Why Dalits have to bribe police officers to register rape complaints and even then the upper-caste offenders go scot-free.
In a state where the political machinery has worked round-the-clock ever since Yogi became the Chief Minister to disfranchise the marginalized community and the Chief Minister and his government is openly casteist and protects the upper caste, the question one needs to ask is how much State-sanctioned atrocity guided and safeguarded by political masters is tolerable? And for how long will a thug in saffron be allowed to pass for a yogi?