ANOTHER NIRBHAYA LOSES FIGHT OF LIFE. WILL ‘NIRBHAYA’ OF HATHRAS GET JUSTICE?

-By Manvi Moudgil

Increasing gender-based atrocities

In yet another shocking rape case, a 19-year-old lost her life. When the 2012 Delhi gang rape came into light, it gave each one of us shudders as to how these heinous crimes are still prevalent in our country even after 65 years of independence. That crime filled us with rage and anguish. A lot of people came forward to fight for justice and after fighting for almost seven years, four accused out of six were hanged till death.  But an innocent life ended tragically because of the monstrous act of 6 men. The recent Hathras rape case bought back the chilling memories of Nirbhaya case. Both the cases caught a lot of media and political attention, leading to worldwide condemnation of the growing rape cases and caste-based crimes.

The Hathras rape victim was 19-year-old Dalit women, belonging to the Valmiki community, which is considered to be lowest in hierarchy even amongst the Dalits in Uttar Pradesh. She was allegedly raped by four upper cast men who dragged her, injuring her spinal cord. The violence left her paralyzed. The perpetrators tried to strangulate her when she resisted their attempt to rape, leading her to bite her own tongue due to which her tongue was cut off. After fighting for almost two weeks between death and life, yet another Nirbhaya lost her life.

She was initially taken to the police station, where the police defied her claims and according to the family, humiliated them. Finally, her statement was recorded after almost a week. According to the victim’s brother, no arrests were made in the first ten days after the crime took place.

On the night of her death, the police came to the village of the girl, not with the intent of giving back the body but to insist the mourning family to cremate her then and there. Inspite of family’s refusal, the police cremated her body at around 2:30 am without the presence of the family. A video surfaced online wherein a police officer was seen telling the family of the victim that even you were at fault in this incident, which showed lack of literate people in our system and the narrow and orthodox mentality of our society. Even Hathras District magistrate and UP’s Information and Public Relations called it a “fake news”. The family alleged that they faced pressure from the administration. A video emerged in which the Hathras District Magistrate was seen pressuring the family into changing their statement.

India recorded an average of 87 rape cases daily in 2019 and overall, 4,05,861 cases of crime against women during the year, a rise of over 7% from 2018. After the Nirbhaya case, police figures showed that a rape is reported on average every 18 hours; reported rape cases rose by nearly 17 percent between 2007 and 2011. Only one of the 706 rape cases filed in Delhi in 2012 saw a successful conviction against the attacker. Between 16 December and 4 January, 501 calls for harassment and 64 calls for rape were recorded by the Delhi Police, but only four were followed up by inquiries. The 2012 Nirbhaya case shocked the nation but India is still the most dangerous country for a woman. The problem is worse for the Dalits. The upper caste groups use sexual violence as a tool, to reinforce their caste hegemony, and their caste supremacy. Due to the dominance of the upper castes, many people are afraid to even report the crime. Even if they do, their voice is suppressed by powerful and politically influenced officials. Rape is a non-bailable offense in the Indian penal code. But people do get bail because of the lack of evidence sometimes. The accused are often sheltered by police, or politicians, or even by lawyers.

Illiteracy is one of the main reasons for the commission of such abominable crimes. India is a patriarchal society in which a woman is often considered to be a ‘second class citizen’. Women are often suppressed by men. In many parts of our country, women and girls who wear western clothes are seen immoral.

Boys should be gender-sensitized at an early age by their family. They should be taught about topics like sexuality, consent and mutual respect — subjects that are profoundly neglected at schools in India. Sex education should be given in the schools to raise awareness about the sensitive topics. Repeated rape cases have angered many Indians. Some are now demanding the capital punishment for rapists. And there have also been calls for authorities to publicly hang the culprits. Law needs to be effective and the investigating agency and prosecution more proficient and efficient.

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