Give them justice

As shocking as the bestiality of those who gang-raped and then murdered two teenaged girls in Katra Sadatganj village in Badaun district is the inconsiderate, indeed callous, response of the Uttar Pradesh government. The post-mortem reports confirm that the two girls, who were cousins, were gang-raped, strangled and then hanged from a tree. The details are chilling. They were victims not just of misogyny and a deeply entrenched patriarchal culture but of caste violence as well. The two girls were Dalits and their assailants belong to the politically dominant Yadav caste.  Across India, rape is used by dominant castes as a weapon to punish and humiliate Dalits and to lay bare in a perverse way the powerlessness of Dalit men and their inability to protect their women. While some of the accused have been arrested, police action came rather late in the day. The relatives of the two girls went to the police to report them missing but the latter refused to register their complaint or do anything to find them. Had the police acted with alacrity, perhaps the two girls would have been alive today. Police inaction cannot be attributed to mere indifference, they abetted the crimes.

The fate of the Badaun girls and the UP police’s shocking response are not isolated incidents. A day after their bodies were found, another girl was gang-raped in Azamgarh. If rapes and gang-rapes continue to be committed so frequently in this country, despite the enactment of strong laws, this is because people in positions of authority routinely downplay the magnitude of this crime, sending the wrong message to potential rapists as well as to police. Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav’s recent remark that rape is a mere ‘mistake’ that boys, being boys will commit, was a shameless justification of rape. Instead of ordering immediate action against the Badaun rapists, his son and UP’s chief minister Akhilesh Yadav mocked journalists for raising questions about the poor law and order situation in the state.

The Badaun gang rape and murders involve sexual violence but also they have a strong caste component to it. Given the caste biases of the police in UP and the role of its personnel in failing to protect the Dalit girls, the case should be handed over to the CBI. As the kin of the two girls rightly said, they deserve justice and not monetary compensations aimed at buying their silence.

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