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Congress listened, Yogi doesn’t — Why Hathras isn’t the same as Delhi 2012 gangrape case

Cremating the body at midnight, besieging family of Dalit victim, allowing displays of Thakur supremacy are all Hathras hallmarks.

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When we were on the streets in the wake of the Delhi bus gangrape in 2012-13, there was, of course, anger and exhaustion among feminist protesters, including hundreds of young Indians who were in a protest movement for the first time in their lives. Through the rage and exhaustion, however, ran a bright thread of hope, a promise of social awakening and institutional change. For the first time ever, society was tuning into feminist concerns about rape culture, victim blaming, and attacks on women’s autonomy in the name of safety. It seemed that the State might, at long last, be forced to acknowledge that existing laws defining sexual violence excluded a whole range of victims’ experiences.

In 2020, with countrywide movements around the alleged gangrape and murder of a young Dalit woman in Hathras, the situation is both similar to 2012 in some ways, and grimly different in others.

This time, too, there is a welcome social awakening to the ugly reality of caste-based atrocities and rapes. But this time, the movement is about keeping alive the flame of social change, of anti-caste and anti-patriarchal awakening in the face of an openly Manuvadi regime determined to snuff out that flame.

Also read: Like Una and Rohith Vemula, BJP govt will come after Hathras protesters: Jignesh Mevani

Then and now

In 2012, the Delhi government, the UPA government at the Centre, and the ruling party — the Congress — put on the defensive by protests, responded by trying to show they cared for the victim and her family, and for the larger issue of sexual violence. Party leaders met the victim’s family, acknowledging their grief and sense of betrayal. The Manmohan Singh-led government set up the Justice Verma Committee, which listened patiently to feminists of all kinds: feminist scholars and activists, Dalit feminists, LGBTQ feminists, feminists working in conflict areas, organising against sexual harassment in workplaces, and so on. The Verma Committee recommendations set forth a resounding Bill of Rights for women, challenging governments to address every area of gender-based injustice and violence from the vantage point of what Dr B.R. Ambedkar described as constitutional morality, rather than conservative social morality and mob frenzy. The changes in the law recommended by the Verma Committee were only partially implemented by the government at the time, but still, the legal changes were, with some crucial exceptions, largely a step in the right direction.

In 2020, in Uttar Pradesh and at the Centre, you have a government that feels no need even to make a token gesture towards implementing the constitutional liberties and rights of women and Dalits. Instead, what we have is UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath using the full force of the state machinery to impose a Manuvadi caste patriarchal order and punish the anti-caste, anti-rape movement.

Opposition leaders, Dalit and women’s groups are meeting the victim’s family to show solidarity — as they should. But the same media that acted as cheerleaders for opposition parties that participated in anti-corruption and anti-rape movements targeting the UPA government, now accuses the opposition of “playing politics” over rape.

Also read: Modi’s worry is not opposition, it’s Yogi Adityanath. Being Vajpayee is the answer

This is not 2012

In 2012, the Congress with all its faults, did not try to deny rape, brand the victim a liar, or to spread communal narratives. In 2020, in contrast, the ruling BJP is responding with its classic communal whataboutery. It digs up instances of rape where the accused are Muslim, and asks why we are not protesting on those cases. It asks why we do not protest a rape that happened in a Congress-ruled state.

The point, of course, is: in those instances, have there been community and faith-based panchayats defending those the victim accused of rape? No, that is the hallmark of Yogi-ruled Hathras. Did the police and district administration supposedly use petrol to burn the victim’s body, preventing a dignified cremation by her loved ones? No, that too is a Hathras hallmark. In those cases, did the government besiege the victim’s family and the Dalit hamlet, preventing them from speaking to reporters and others? Prevented anti-rape protests but allowed and encouraged violent masculine displays of Thakur caste supremacy in defence of the rape accused? No, that too is a Hathras hallmark. Did the ruling party, in those cases, use taxpayers’ money to engage a PR company to brand the victim a liar and deny the rape and attempted murder by four Thakur youths? The outrage over Hathras is against the brutal rape and killing, and over the crimes committed by the state government to cover up the very fact of the alleged caste-supremacist rape committed by Thakur men. The outrage is at UP having a chief minister who has made no secret of the fact that he endorses the Manusmriti’s decrees of the subordination and subjugation of women and Dalits.

Also read: ‘Drunk on power’ UP Police will break the system beyond repair

A different kind of plot

In 2012, feminist and anti-caste activists protesting rape would not generally face charges of sedition and Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (unless of course they worked in conflict areas, which previous governments too treated as exempt from constitutional protections). But now, we are up against a system that is bent on defending organised caste supremacy and Islamophobic terrorism while treating feminist, anti-caste and equal-citizenship activism as a crime equivalent to terrorism. We have seen this in Bhima Koregaon. We are seeing it in the Delhi Police ‘riots probe’ where equal-citizenship activists including Pinjra Tod feminists have been jailed under the UAPA.

And now, the Hathras police has filed FIRs accusing anti-rape and anti-caste protesters of being part of an ‘international plot’ to foment caste riots and defame the UP chief minister.

The ongoing movement demands justice and change — not revenge. And it is clear that Yogi Adityanath, in the seat of UP CM, is actively promoting injustice and a regressive Manuvad as state policy. This is why sacking him is the first condition for creating the possibility of justice and change.

The author is the secretary of the All India Progressive Women’s Association and politburo member of CPIML. Views are personal.

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  1. Congress listened because it was on sticky bucket during those days. Image of Congress was dented beyond repairs because of Anna’s agitation, followed by Ramdev agitation and was surrounded by scams & scandals of thousands of crores. More over Delhi rape created a history because it was open case. Opposition of those days was not so mean to play politics on such ghastly incidents.. That case got spontaneous support from all corners & Congress had no alternative but to listen.

  2. The reaction of Governments and authorities of the day to violations of any kind should always be questioned in a democracy. Definitely, the guilty should be punished.
    A few acts of terrorism, the world over, in the name of Islam do not make all Muslims terrorists and there is no need for islamophobia. A few atrocities against some Dalits (those established as such) by a few upper caste personnel (this official differentiation not based on economic capabilities is in itself an aberration) does not make it an expansive, perpetual, Dalit vs Upper caste antagonistic fight.
    For heaven’s sake don’t get paranoid on caste.
    Tailpiece: The panacea for all these ills is not sacking individual leaders….we will always have a “leader” who will always have some frailties…The society has to evolve

  3. Lol… such total tripe…

    Manuvadi patriarchy is the fantasy of naxal feminists in CPI cesspits.

    Yogi has already punished the officers for cremation without orders. The family is protected from reprisals and the media circus has been kept at bay.

    The facts are yet to be ascertained and the competent medical authorities are doing their job along with the CBI which has been handed over the Case for complete fairness.

    The absurdity of claiming that there are supporting rallies for the accused is yet another cheap attempt at distortion. The local thakur community is protesting being vilified for acts of a few by a media circus.

  4. I wonder why some treaders get annoyed with what appears in the media presented by reporters and columnists’ “personal views”.
    Diverse opinions on various topics of public interest is commonplace. We must realise that almost all writers uncannily write with preconceived ideas. This is not new. Even historians and commentators narrate history as they perceive the incidents. Their narrations are usually guided by what they know and more importantly what they want to know. Nobody should be indignant. While facts can’t be changed, history (narration) changes when more “evidence” is revealed.
    These days the reader can just read the name of the author and skip the article as she/he will already know the contents just by seeing who wrote the opinion piece. The reader gets more time to pursue better interests.
    So, why fret?
    Tail piece: Our hearts always go out to the victims with the eternal hope that more are not victinised.

  5. It is the usual practice of BJP/RSS to resort to whataboutery. That is because they never intend to find a solution to a problem. They want to make the problem permanent by resorting to whataboutery so that they can always fish in the troubled water. They have succeeded in finding their way up in politics through this process of whataboutery . Then why will they listen to anyone, any citizen, or any group of citizens including opposition parties. Only thing is that people have to realise this behaviour of that party and teach them a lesson in the next husting. The process has already started. They have been losing a number of states since 2018, one by one, and it will go further until they lose Bihar, UP and ultimately centre.

  6. It is UP police. They never get it right, they never have. For this lady to paint a BJP angle to it is ridiculous. This is exactly why the liberals lose arguments. They play politics everywhere and everytime. Kavita Krishan is a known Anti-BJP liberal. She can have her opinion, but lies are not opinions. I cannot opine that it is BJP that is responsible here, especially when UP police has a track record of such action and botching up cases.

    Compare apples to apples and not aplles to oranges. Do not compare UP to something that happened in Delhi. Congress heard you? Why should the Congress party hear you… It is a police matter an the right thing should be done without political pressure or involvement.

  7. Congress can launch Rhea’s political career. She has the Congress pedigree now after spending time in jail for drugs and abbetment to suicide.

  8. Convenient Comparison, UP is not Delhi. They are two different universes. Anywhere else in India the response would be different irrespective of who ruled. I do not believe it was under the direction of the center that the UP Govt acted the way it did. It is purely a local contempt for the law and collusion of law enforcement, politics and criminal elements. You have to see this as it is, not try to paint a BJP is lawless and is condoning rape narrative…

    • Yes it was totally BJP
      Section 144 on village
      Opposition not allowed in UP
      Keeping victim family hostage
      Stopping media
      Faking reports
      Closing down India gate on Ghandhi jayanti
      This all comes under a local UP police power
      CM and PM are just jokers ?

  9. Yogi is the strongest chief minister we have seen in India, he should be made the Defense Minister of India, ore even make him the Prime Minister to give China and Pakistan a befitting reply, Jai Yogi

  10. Rape anywhere in the world is the worst type of crime and must be condemned. Govt must be forced to take action. But the moment you try to build narrative around upper caste lower caste politics you stand exposed in your propaganda. Shame on you that you’re painting this issue as caste politics rather than making it an issue of women safety at large. Such a shallow and cheap level of thinking.

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