Hathras: Over 30 Ambedkarite student organizations across country call for protest

Photo: BAPSA/JNU

A Joint Action Council of Ambedkarite Students’ Organizations against Caste Violence on Dalits appealed to the various anti-caste organizations and like-minded individuals, to join them for a nationwide protest on 10 October, to register their dissent against the caste-based sexual violence on Dalit women.

The Joint Action Council (JAC) was formed in the context of caste-based violence against a Dalit woman by upper-caste Hindu men in Hathras, Uttar Pradesh.

“We, the various Ambedkarite student organizations across the country, unequivocally condemn the brutal rape and murder of Dalit woman in Hathras and the violent casteist actions of anti-Dalit Ajay Bisht’s government that works in the interests of Thakurs alone,” a joint statement reads.

Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh Ajay Singh Bisht aka Yogi Adityanath must resign immediately, they said.

Read the unedited text of the joint statement:

The Khairlanji massacre perpetrated by Maratha Kunbis of Khairlanji village, 14 years back, on 29th September 2006 in Maharashtra, has over the years, become a textbook example of caste-based horror for the mainstream Savarna academia, media, and activists. In Khairlanji, the Kunbis raped the women of the Bhotmange family over a land dispute and paraded them naked around the village and then hacked four members of the Bhotmange family to death. The incident was not even reported on national television until Dalits raised the issue and protested in Nagpur. It has been 14 years since the Khairlanji massacre and the Upper caste and dominant caste sexual violence against Dalit women remains unchecked. Bhaiyalal Bhotmange, the lone person alive in the family, died in 2017 without due justice, and even till his death, the Supreme Court had not recognized the incident as a caste atrocity. Post-Khairlanji, there have been multitudes of caste-based sexual atrocities across the country, just that these didn’t catch the eye of the Savarna mainstream. An atrocity against a Dalit woman does not elicit similar kind of outrage by both the Savarna Brahmanical media and the Savarna activists, as that of the violation of Savarna women. According to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) data, out of the total 32,033 reported rape cases in the year 2019, 11% i.e., 3524 rapes were that of Dalit women. On a daily basis, around 10 Dalit women get raped in India! The data also states that the rape vulnerability of women has increased by 44%, and more so for Dalit women, in the last decade. This is a direct reflection of the Brahmin masculinity project that has been waging furiously in the last few years. What we see is a growing sense of impunity for the Upper and dominant castes with the protection from caste police-state-media nexus.

On 14th Sept. 2020, a 19-year-old girl from the Valmiki community (still considered as ‘untouchable’ by the caste Hindus) was raped and brutalized in Hathras, Uttar Pradesh. The victim had gone with her mother to collect fodder in a nearby field, where 4 Thakur men — Sandeep Singh, Lavkush, Ravi Singh, and Ram Kumar — from the village grabbed her, dragged her aside by her neck with her dupatta, and gang-raped her. Her tongue was cut and she was strangled because of which she suffered gruesome injuries on her neck and spine, which rendered her body paralysed. Despite the brutal injuries, the victim was somehow able to give her statement to the police where she narrated the entire incident.

The victim was being harassed by the Thakur rapists for a long time, and there has been a history of atrocities being committed on the victim’s family by the rapists’ families. After battling her grave injuries, the victim died 15 days later, at Safdarjung Hospital. If the atrocities committed by the rapist-murderers were not enough, the State government led by Ajay Singh Bisht, also known as Yogi Adityanath, made sure that the victim was not given even a shred of justice. The accused were not arrested for 10 days, even after the crime was reported, and they were taken into custody only after massive public outrage by Dalits. The victim was also denied adequate medical attention. Despite the gruesome injuries to her spine, abdomen, and mouth, the victim was not given proper medical facilities. She was kept in a normal ward in the District Hospital and was then shifted to Aligarh’s Jawaharlal Nehru Medical Hospital. Given her grave injuries, she was referred to AIIMS Delhi, but for undisclosed reasons, she was brought to Safdarjung Hospital (Delhi) on 28th September, where she died the next day.

The police manhandled and arrested the angry protestors and secretly took her body out of the hospital and brought her body to her village in Hathras in the middle of the night. When the body reached her village, the victim’s mother cried and wailed on the bonnet of the ambulance, begging that her daughter’s body be handed over to the family so that they could take her home for one last time. But the police and the administration did not listen. Instead of giving her body to her grieving family members, the monstrous district administration forcefully cremated her. For the Yogi-Modi regime, Dalits have no dignity even in death. Forcibly, her body was cremated at 3 AM, while her family was locked up in their house.

After this tragedy that was unleashed upon the family, first by the rapist- murderers, and then by the State machinery, the forensic report has now declared that the victim was not raped. This is a deliberate ploy to protect the rapist Thakur men by the State led by the CM Ajay Bisht, a Thakur himself. Instead of ensuring justice to Dalit woman and her family, the Ajay Singh Bisht government has put a price on her body and life — 25 lakhs, a house, and a government job; and is systematically putting the family members of the victim through humiliation, by announcing that they would be put through a lie detection test! . In the midst of this tragedy, yet another Dalit girl has been raped and killed in Balrampur. All this while, the Prime Minister of the country, and his Cabinet Ministers have maintained complete silence. The Union Home Minister Amit Shah and the Union Minister for Women and Child Development, Smriti Irani, have been equally irresponsible. Their unusual silence is, in itself, caste violence.

The media, the so-called fourth pillar of democracy, has also exposed its own casteist nature. More interested in sensational news, a gruesome rape and murder of a Dalit woman was not considered worthy of reporting or coverage by them. There are only a handful of media channels that have covered the crime properly and have tried to ask the right questions. Yet, even among these handful, there are many who refused to acknowledge the ‘upper caste violence angle’ or only focused on the gory violation of Dalit women’s bodies. Not even a dead and brutalized Dalit woman can evoke empathy and responsibility from the casteist media. Instead of asking questions to the government and the administration, Savarna journalists were found asking Dalit leaders and protestors questions about ‘disturbing peace’.

There has been a rising trend of violence against Dalits across the country and specifically in Uttar Pradesh, the state ruled by Thakur Chief Minister Ajay Bisht. According to the National Crime Records Bureau, a total of 45,935 cases were registered under atrocities against Scheduled Castes, amounting to roughly 126 atrocity cases every single day, with Uttar Pradesh recording the highest incidence of crimes against Dalits. Thakur-Rajput dominance and impunity have been on the rise in the state, and the instruments of the Administration, including the bureaucracy and the police, are being systematically used to protect the “upper” caste aggressors. This phenomenon is a clear manifestation of Ram Rajya and Hindu Rashtra – both of which are conceptions that uphold and glorify the caste-based hierarchy of the Hindu Varna system.

We, the various Ambedkarite student organizations across the country, unequivocally condemn the brutal rape and murder of Dalit woman and the violent casteist actions of anti-Dalit Ajay Bisht’s government that works in the interests of Thakurs alone. We request all social, political, and cultural organizations who are involved in fighting for the rights of Dalits and who consider themselves part of anti-caste movements, to unite and rise in rage against the rising Hindutva supremacy.

We rise together and we shall not stop until there is absolute justice and an end to “Upper” Caste Hindutva supremacy and impunity!

A “Joint Action Council (JAC) of Ambedkarite Student Organizations against Caste Violence on Dalits” was formed in the context of this incident. The JAC aims to bring together Ambedkarite Student Organizations across the various educational institutions of the country, to organize the struggle against Caste violence perpetrated by the savarnas on Dalit bodies. In the present context, we aim to keep the struggle for Justice for Dalit woman alive and co-ordinate our efforts towards this objective.

We put forward the following demands:

  • Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh Ajay Singh Bisht aka Yogi Adityanath must resign immediately
  • District Magistrate, Hathras, Praveen Kumar Laxkar and Superintendent of Police, Hathras, Vikrant Vir must be terminated from service immediately
  • Charges of SC/ST Atrocities Act must be pressed and action must be taken against District Magistrate, Hathras, Praveen Kumar Laxkar, Superintendent of Police, Hathras, Vikrant Vir, and the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh Ajay Singh Bisht
  • Withdraw the NARCO test announced by the Ajay Bisht government on the victim’s family members
  • Supreme Court monitored investigation with majority of representatives from the Scheduled Caste community, to be conducted
  • An enquiry committee must be set up to investigate the Doctors involved in the case and those involved in the post-mortem of the deceased
  • Land should be provided to the victim’s family, and the family members should be ensured government jobs
  • Complete protection and security should be ensured by the government until the time the family is no longer susceptible to threats by the Thakurs of the village, or for lifetime, whichever comes first
  • Fast-track courts for redressal of SC/ST atrocities must be set up and made functional in all districts of India
  • Reservation for Dalits in Media, with priority to Dalit women

We, the Joint Action Council of Ambedkarite Students’ Organizations against Caste Violence on Dalits, on behalf of all the signatories listed here in this statement, appeal to the various anti-caste organisations and like-minded individuals, to join us for a nationwide peaceful protest on 10th of October, 2020 to register our dissent against the caste based sexual violence on Dalit women.

Signatories and Endorsements (in alphabetical order):

Adivasi Chhatra Sangh, Jharkhand

Ambedkar Students’ Association, Central University of Kerala, Kerala

Ambedkar Students’ Association, Hyderabad Central University, Telangana

Ambedkar Students’ Association, Maharashtra

Ambedkar Students’ Association, Pondicherry University, Puducherry

Ambedkar Students’ Association, Punjab University, Punjab

Ambedkarite Students’ Association, TISS (Mumbai), Maharashtra

Ambedkar Students’ Association, Wardha, Maharashtra

Ambedkarite Students’ Collective, IIT-Bombay, Maharashtra

Ambedkarite Students’ Organization, FC Pune, Maharashtra

Bahujan Collective, TISS (Hyderabad), Telangana

Bahujan Sahitya Sangh, JNU, New Delhi

Bahujan Students’ Front, Hyderabad Central University, Telangana

Birsa Ambedkar Phule Students’ Association, Central University of Gujarat, Gujarat

Birsa Ambedkar Phule Students’ Association, Chattisgarh

Birsa Ambedkar Phule Students’ Association, Gujarat University, Gujarat

Birsa Ambedkar Phule Students’ Association, Hemchandracharya North, Gujarat University, Gujarat

Birsa Ambedkar Phule Students’ Association, JNU, New Delhi

Birsa Ambedkar Phule Students’ Association, Maharaja Krishnakumarsinhji Bhavnagar University, Gujarat

Birsa Ambedkar Phule Students’ Association, Veer Narmad South Gujarat University, Gujarat

Birsa Ambedkar Phule Students’ Association, West Bengal

Dalit Art Archive

Dalit Students’ Union, Hyderabad Central University, Telangana

Dalit Queer Project

Dalit Women Fight

Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar National Students Federation, Nagpur, Maharashtra

Jai Bhim Foundation, Mumbai, Maharashtra

North East Collective, IIT Bombay, Maharashtra

North East Students Forum, JNU, New Delhi

Radical Students’ Forum, Puducherry

Republican Student’s Federation, Chandrapur, Maharashtra

Tribal Students’ Forum, Hyderabad Central University, Telangana