By now, you may have heard about the most recent cases of horrifying rapes and murders of Dalit women and their terrorization and traumatization by the police in the state of Uttar Pradesh in India. We are reaching out to individuals and organizations located outside India to sign a statement to express in the strongest possible collective voice our outrage at this horrific violence, to express our solidarity with all the families of survivors and victims of caste-based violence in India, and to join organizations, movements, and concerned citizens across India and the world to demand accountability and justice for the victims and survivors of this violence.
You can sign the statement as an individual or a group. To do so, place the name of your organization, department or institution under ‘name’ when signing.
We strongly condemn the brutal gang rape and murder of a 19-year-old Dalit woman from Valmiki community in Hathras, in the state of Uttar Pradesh (UP), by four men from the upper-caste community of Thakurs, followed by similar rapes and killings of Dalit women in Balrampur, Bhadohi, Bulandshahr, and Azamgarh in UP, that have sent waves of shock, sorrow, and rage across India and the world.
Over and over again, the District and state administration, controlled by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, has humiliated and terrorized the family members of victims and survivors, mishandled and misrepresented the cases, and destroyed crucial evidence. This horror is evident in Hathras, where the police refused to hand over the rape victim’s body to her family, and cremated her in the middle of the night to eliminate all evidence — they denied her family the right to hold her for the last time, and to cremate her with dignity, with love, and with rage. The savagery of the police did not stop there — they unconstitutionally declared Hathras a containment zone to suppress protests and to isolate the family from political and civil rights groups who want to support them. In a final attempt to protect the upper-caste perpetrators, rape victim’s family has been threatened with narco tests. All vestiges of rule of law have been stripped away in the service of a Hindutva ideology, which upholds and valorizes Brahmanical caste/gender inequalities and oppression.
At this crucial historical moment when George Floyd’s brutal murder by a white police officer in Minneapolis has reignited the Black Lives Matter Movement in the U.S. and across the globe, the rapes and murders of Dalit women in U.P. by upper-caste men have galvanized tens of thousands of protestors across the world to rise up against the police state in the service of violent Hindutva in India, and to demand justice for the victims and survivors of this horrific violence.
We stand in unflinching solidarity with all the families of survivors and victims of caste-based violence and join the women’s and feminist organizations and people’s movements across India, as well as their supporters across the world, to demand the following:
· The rapists and murderers should be punished stringently as per Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act (PoA, hereafter) and all such cases in UP must be investigated expeditiously. The Allahabad High Court must constitute an independent, time-bound Commission of Inquiry into the Hathras episode and hold all perpetrators and enablers of the crime, including police and government officials, fully accountable.
· The families of all the victims must be provided with full security and safety.
· Strict action must be taken as per PoA Act on police and government officials who refused to file an appropriate FIR in time, who cremated the victim in a clandestine way in the dead of the night, who were complicit in covering up and attempting to destroy the case and evidence, persecuting the already distraught family.
· All state governments and Centre must ensure the scrupulous implementation of the PoA, 1989 in addition to the Criminal Law Amendments 2013 and recommendations of the Justice J.S. Verma Committee, 2013. All cases of sexual violence on Dalit and Adivasi women must be fast-tracked, as per PoA.
· The Chief Minister of UP must step down for having failed miserably to protect the constitutional, legal, and human rights of multiple marginalized sections including Dalit, Adivasis and Muslims.
· The state governments must put an end to police and administrative high-handedness, especially the increasing cases of custodial deaths. The attacks on activists, journalists and repression of dissent should stop immediately.
· The State must stop criminalizing peaceful and democratic protests that express much needed citizens’ outrage against caste and gender-based violence or atrocities on other marginalized communities.
India Civil Watch International
Twin Cities South Asia Solidarity Collective
Alliance for Progressive South Asians (Twin Cities)
Imagining Transnational Solidarities Research Circle
AGITATE! Unsettling Knowledges
SEWA-AIFW (Asian Indian Family Wellness)
We understand this caste and gender-based violence as part of the barbaric workings of a deeply casteist society that have been aided, abetted and intensified by the ascendancy of Hindutva’s political-ideological agenda at the national and state levels. For example, in 2009, the current UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath quoted Manusmriti to argue against women’s reservations in Assembly and Parliament on the grounds that women ought always to be ‘kept under the control of men’.
According to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), out of the 51,824 cases of crime against Dalits, registered under the SC & ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act between 2009 and 2018, UP ranks first with 22.38% of total crimes. Of all crimes committed against Dalits, the highest are against Dalit women. NCRB data also shows a 27.9% increase in crimes against Dalits, and a 20% increase in crimes against women, between 2016-19 in UP. Similar patterns of violence and atrocities are noticeable in another BJP ruled state – Gujarat. As per the data of Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe Cell in Gujarat, the number of cases of atrocities against Dalits in the state have been rising each year since 2010. The number of cases of rape per year has also gone up, from 39 in 2010 to 108 cases in 2018. A total of 568 cases of atrocity against Dalits and 36 cases of rape have been registered in Gujarat through May of 2020.
The BJP projects itself as pro-Dalit but attacks Dalits mercilessly and relentlessly at societal and institutional levels. The incident at Hathras is just another blatant example of BJP’s casteist anti-Dalit agenda. The institutional murder of Rohit Vemula and many other students, the Una floggings, the Hindutva violence at Bhima Koregaon and the vindictive arrests of progressive Dalit bahujan journalists, activists and intellectuals (e.g. Prashant Kanojia, Anand Teltumbde, Sudhir Dhawale, Adv Surendra Gadling, multiple arrests of Chandrashekar Azad) are other cases in point. In UP, the Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath’s rule has enabled the caste consolidation of Thakurs, to which caste the Hathras murderers (and the Chief Minister himself) belong, by favoring them in government appointments as well as by recruiting them in private militias.
The rise of violent Hindutva has also been marked by increasing authoritarianism and political control over the administration and police forces. In UP, this authoritarianism has been on naked display not only in Hathras but also in the rampant arrests of those who opposed the Citizenship Amendment Act, enabling arrests without FIRs, registering mass FIRs on thousands and particularly targeting Muslims, and bringing the police force in alignment with Hindutva through para recruitments.