Hathras: The family of the 20-year-old Hathras woman who died Tuesday after she was allegedly gang-raped and assaulted by four men is quite certain why she was targeted.
They wouldn’t have lost their daughter, they say, if they hadn’t been Dalits but “Pandits or Thakurs”, two “upper-caste” communities that dominate Boolgarhi, the village the family calls home.
The 20-year-old victim and her family are members of the Valmiki community, which accounts for all of two households among Boolgarhi’s 200. She was out to collect fodder on 14 September when four of her upper-caste neighbours allegedly dragged her into the bajra fields, pulling her by the dupatta around her neck, and assaulted her. While she was being strangled, she allegedly bit her tongue so hard, she cut it.
On Tuesday, she died at Delhi’s Safdarjung Hospital, her injuries too critical for her to survive.
For the family of the victim, the brutality of the Hathras assault, the latest instance of sexual violence to catch attention of the country, is a testament to the caste faultlines that run deep in Uttar Pradesh.
Adding to the family’s pain is the fact that they were deprived of a proper farewell by the Uttar Pradesh authorities’ decision to cremate the victim in a pre-dawn funeral that defied the family’s religious beliefs. Until the last moment, they beseeched police in Hathras, as well as the district authorities, for a final look at their daughter, but to no avail.
The four upper caste men identified as the suspects — Sandeep, his uncle Ravi, their friend Lavkush and Ramu — were arrested last week.
Also Read: Stuck at home in lockdown, Delhi continues to record rape and molestation cases
The lines that divide this Hathras village
The fact that the upper castes and lower castes of Boolgarhi inhabit different universes is clear at once when you enter the village.
The homes of the Hathras rape-murder accused and the victim are hardly 200 metres away, but they couldn’t be more different.
The former are high-walled, gated concrete structures — most of them two-storied — while the two Dalit households live in small, two-room units made of concrete and mud. The Thakurs and the Pandits own land, but the two Valmiki households get by on dairy goods from their livestock and daily labour.
When ThePrint team visited the village Tuesday night, all the Thakurs and Pandits’ houses were locked from inside even as the relatives of the victim lined up outdoors, in grief and anger, for a last look at her.
The upper caste residents couldn’t be approached for comment, since all appeared to be indoors, but their Dalit neighbours spoke of a deep divide in Boolgarhi.
Over the years, the Valmikis said, the upper castes have sought to subjugate them in numerous ways. They have tolerated it all quietly, they add, in order to maintain the uneasy peace that defines their life in Boolgarhi. “They harass us in many ways, like they say, ‘don’t walk from this side of the road’, they drain dirty water into our homes,” said the victim’s sister-in-law.
“We went to work in Delhi to escape the discrimmination here. How long will we keep fighting for basic amenities?” said a cousin of the victim who works in a factory in Delhi.
The family of the victim said nobody would have dared to do what they did to her had she belonged to the “Thakur or the Pandit community”.
Even police, the victim’s mother said, had “not been prompt” in taking action against the accused because they are from the upper caste.
“Yaha pe insaan ka jaat pehle dekhte hain, phir kuch kaam karte hain, woh dekhte dekhte haiwan ban gaye hain sab. Police ne bhi hume pehle bola tha Chandpa thana mein ki hum natak kar rahe he, beti ko kuch jyada nahi hua hain (Here, people see your caste first then take action. They have turned monstrous now. When we took our daughter to the Chandpa thana, the personnel told us that we are doing drama and that nothing major has happened to her),” the mother said.
Hathras Superintendent of Police (SP) Vikrant Vir denied these allegations but said the station house officer of Chandpa was transferred to police lines — seen as a punishment posting — Sunday for “his failure to promptly act in the case”.
The Valmikis of Boolgarhi allege that the “apathy” with which the woman’s case was handled could be attributed to the fact that Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath is a Thakur. The caste dynamics under Adityanath’s rule have been a matter of headlines since he took over in 2017 from the Samajwadi Party (SP).
The potential caste contours of the Hathras episode have also been the defining aspect of the political response it has triggered.
From former Congress president Rahul Gandhi alleging a “class-specific jungle raj in Uttar Pradesh”, to the Aam Aadmi Party hitting out at the CM’s “casteist mindset”, and the Bhim Army’s protest at Safdarjung Hospital, and from Mayawati, who pitches her party BSP as a platform for Dalit uplift, demanding fast prosecution, to Akhilesh Yadav of the Samajwadi Party moirning the death of a “Dalit daughter”, the outrage of political parties has invoked the alleged casteist undercurrents to the crime.
Also Read: Hathras Dalit woman, who was gang-raped and assaulted, dies at Safdarjung Hospital
‘Apathy of police’
The Hathras victim was cremated at 2.25 am, amid a heavy security cover that saw over 150 police personnel descend on the village of 200 households.
The family requested the police and the district authorities to let them send off their daughter in accordance with their rituals — or at least let them spend some time with her. A window of 20 minutes was initially allowed for rituals, but when the family rejected it as too short, even that was withdrawn.
The police personnel prevented her family from leaving the house as she was taken for cremation.
Asked why they were hurrying the cremation in the pre-dawn hours, the police and the district authorities said they feared waiting until morning would lead to the matter being “blown out of proportion” and “politicised”.
Before the body arrived at the site, generators and a pile of logs — her pyre — stood ready.
Hours before dawn, the Hathras victim’s mortal remains were burnt to ashes, with her bereaved family shedding tears at home a short distance away.
Also Read: Was raped & tortured by 139 men over 11 years, says 25-year-old Hyderabad woman, police begins probe
India has pretensions of being an ancient civilization, but is the most barbaric country on the planet. Rife with the most vile racial prejudice, blind lust and utter callousness toward the weak and the poor. Monsters.
I disagree with this premise that being a Pandit or Thakur would have prevnted the rape. If those monsters could rape a valmiki, then they are very much capable of raping their own women. And it would have not even reached the police station. Don’t look at their caste. This is a criminal mindset that should be puniahed.
What the Print wants by headline of this article?? Is it not a provocation to rape of upper caste women?????? Same on. Honorable court should take cognizance of this .
Wat are you talking ? That person is only telling all to imagine a scenario…You seem to side with the rapist ..Shame on you..
Its clearly a caste based violence, shame that we still live in denial.
The print will never mention the name of religion or caste if rapists will muslims
UP is the worst place to live as they are paying off for electing a barbaric and far right extremists.
It is sad that these impotent men are showing their braveness to innocent little girls. Until you have voting politics based on caste and religion, you will continue to see these cases. Also, I couldn’t understand why does the poor community is still grumbling behind the doors when they know that there lives are not counted by ruling party.
How can they name Muslims when the rapists are all Hindus generally ? Only a Hindus can gang rape a 8 year old in a temple.
The state protects Hindu rapists, terrorists and pogrom organisers.
A journalist who advertised her hiding of faith by OPENLY declaring it . Should stop her anti HINDU conspiracy theories.
A woman has been brutally attacked and these madmen who did it should be punished as per law . However no punishment will be enough .
Sad case but why did the victim’s family (brother) registered this as only a case of murder initially. This makes it suspicious, hope thorough investigation is done to find out the trurh
right police just doesn’t act impartially every body knows it but why it doesn’t change.
It doesn’t change because the Hindu majority condones casteism, communalism, rape and violence. They elect people steeped in this culture and imagine they will make India developed.
But we r still better than Muslim majority countries where muslims r developing it n will make those countries super developed. If Hindus have caste system, muslims have sunni, shia, ahmadiya, hazaras, yezidi, etc etc. Simple law n order problem in hathras, guilty shud b hanged, that’s end of it. Blowing it out of proportion by people with vested interests- money, power, anti nationals.
I never referred to Muslim countries. In many Muslim countries, you will be executed for rape. It will not be like this – people walking in support of rapists, garlanding rapists etc.
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