Hathras Protests Mount, UK Groups Write to UNHRC
Opposition parties and former civil servants lodge protests
Over 30 diaspora groups and human rights organisations in the UK, including South Asia Solidarity Group, along with MPs John McDonnell, Apsana Begum, and Kim Johnson, have written to the UN Human Rights Commissioner Michelle Bachelet regarding the Hathras case, requesting her to urge PM Narendra Modi to dismiss Yogi Adityanath as Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh.
In addition to the dismissal, they have also requested an international enquiry into the brutal gangrape and murder of a 19-year-old Dalit woman in Hathras, as well as into other rapes and crimes against women—especially those belonging to oppressed castes in UP—committed during the period in which the Adityanath government has been in power in the state.
The signatories detailed injuries sustained by the victim during the assault and alleged that the four men—upper caste Thakurs—had been ruthlessly harassing her for a considerable length of time, making the victim afraid to even leave her home.
They further alleged negligence on the part of the UP police, who were initially reluctant to file an FIR against the four accused and “left her lying on the concrete floor of the police station and when she was eventually taken to a hospital she was left in a generic ward.” It was only after pressure mounted that the victim was transferred to the ICU and later to Delhi’s Safdarjung Hospital, where she succumbed to her injuries on September 29, they wrote.
“But even this scale of cruelty was not enough for the police and administration of UP and the local government led by Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath,” they alleged, adding that the police—impervious to the family’s pleas—”barricaded her family in their house so they could not attend or perform funeral rites” and hurriedly cremated the victim’s body in the dead of night “to erase all evidence in the case”.
Recently, Bhim Army Chief Chandrashekhar Azad met with the victim’s family in Hathras and demanded Y-category security for them. “I demand 'Y security' for the family or I'll take them to my house, they aren't safe here. We want an inquiry to be done under the supervision of a retired Supreme Court judge," ANI reported Azad as saying.
The UP state government has been heavily criticised by civil society members and political leaders alike, for an alleged coverup of the rape. Recently, The Indian Express reported Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) MP Kanimozhi Karunanidhi as stating: "UP government is trying to hide what happened there (in Hathras). The funeral by the police and attack on journalists is strongly condemnable. Moreover, the political leaders who are going there are also being attacked."
As protests surged, police cordoned off the village, preventing the media and political leaders from meeting the family. Most recently, Samajwadi Party workers, allegedly protesting against several men who had staged a demonstration in support of the accused, were lathicharged by the police, reported The Indian Express.
Alleging a “systematic attack on women and oppressed castes”, the signatories, in their letter to the UN Human Rights Commissioner, highlighted that Hathras was not an isolated incident—three other sexual assaults and deaths took place in the state within 24 hours of the victim’s body being cremated by the police.
According to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), India reported 4,05,861 cases of crimes against women in 2019, with Uttar Pradesh accounting for 59,853 such incidents. The NCRB figures also show the highest number of atrocities against Dalits in 2016 occurred in UP, amounting to 26 percent of all reported cases.
Recently, BJP MLA Surendra Singh’s remarks on how rapes can be prevented only if girls are taught sanskaar (culture and values), and not with shasan (governance) or talwar (sword), have come under the scanner and been widely criticised by the Opposition.
Singh, allegedly responding to Shiv Sena’s remarks that the law and order situation in Uttar Pradesh was more a “Jungle Raj” as opposed to the promised “Ram Rajya”, stated: “I am also a teacher besides a legislator. Such incidents can only be stopped with the help of good values and not governance and violence. Parents should ensure to instill good values in their young daughters.”
The Trinamool Congress, Left Front, and Congress slammed the MLA for his remarks. Rahul Gandhi, responding to Singh, said, "This is the filthy RSS male chauvinist mentality at work. Men do the raping but women need to be taught good values."
Meanwhile, former civil servants in India have written to CM Yogi Adityanath, expressing concern over the handling of the Hathras incident by the UP administration. “...As a nation, we are plumbing the depths of depravity and callousness in governance,” they wrote.
Requesting the state government to deliver justice to the family without fear or favour, “despite the efforts of specific upper caste groups to interfere with the course of justice”, the group also urged officers of the state administration to implement the rule of law in a fair and just manner.
The letter highlights that almost three weeks after the incident, the police are yet to confirm the crime of rape and “are still spinning theories around it, although the video of what amounts to her dying declaration seems to confirm it.” A senior police official had earlier cited a forensic report, stating there had been no evidence of rape in the Hathras case.
After hurrying through a cremation without the family’s consent or presence, a policeman is reported to have told the bereaved family that they were also to blame while the District Magistrate, in a video that has been circulated widely on social media, was captured issuing a veiled threat to the family that “they should be careful about their statements to the media, because the officials would be around even after the media departs.”
Noting that the Prime Minister had urged the UP state administration to “fast track” the case to secure an early conviction, the signatories raised several concerns regarding fast tracked justice. They referred to past incidents where the group of former civil servants had highlighted violations of the rule of law, specifically in the Unnao rape case and the murder of a police inspector in Bulandshahr, noting that even after two years, the Bulandshahr case has not been brought to closure.
“In these circumstances, we may be forgiven for viewing UP’s fast track justice system with scepticism. We are, in fact, concerned with the novel interpretations of fast track justice in the state governed by you,” they wrote, referring to two recent instances where alleged criminals died while being transported by police officials in the state.
“You seem to believe in combining the roles of judge and executioner, as evidenced in a recent interview where you advocated the philosophy of “an eye for an eye.” Equally reprehensible, some months ago, you ordered the withdrawal of cases registered against you in the past. Politicians never tire of saying “the law must take its course”. Why depart from this article of faith for your party and government?” they asked.
The group demanded that those complicit in violation of law in the Hathras case be punished. Acknowledging the recent suspension of the Superintendent of Police, the group also requested action be taken against the District Magistrate along with prosecuting all officers and men belonging to the district police and executive magistracy who have “wilfully neglected their duties” under Section 4 of The Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989.
“The meek surrender of the Uttar Pradesh bureaucracy and police, especially its All-India Services, to political diktat has shamed all of us who deem it a badge of honour to belong to these services.”
Urging the UP state government to administrate in accordance with the letter and spirit of the Constitution, the group stated, “Ultimately, all responsibility rests with you as the Chief Executive of the state. Your actions over the past three and a half years give us little reason to believe that your actions are motivated by respect for the rule of law.”