India’s top Dalit advocacy groups in have insisted that the Supreme Court should take suo moto cognisance of the rising atrocities against Dalit women and minor girls in the country. In a joint statement, the All India Dalit Mahila Adhikar Manch (AIDMAM) and the National Dalit Movement for Justice (NDMJ) said, the Hathras gang rape and murder is “not stand-alone case”, adding, data suggest “every day 10 Dalit women and girls are raped in the country.”
Issued following a protest at the Ambedkar Bhawan in New Delhi, the statement, which also demanded the resignation of UP chief minister Yogi Adityanath, said, “The crime rate against Dalits in Uttar Pradesh has been rising exponentially” and “dominant castes are using sexual violence as a tool to showcase their power and authority.”
Pointing out that such ghastly incidents of violence are perpetrated everyday against women and minors during the pandemic and the lockdown, the statement said, “UP has witnessed several cases of atrocities against Dalit women, with Lakhimpur Kheri district leading in the graph of violence.”
It continued, in the past 60 days more than six atrocities were reported in the district against Dalit women and minor girls. In Saharanpur district, six cases of abduction and rape have been reported, adding, cases of sexual assault of Dalit girls have also been reported from Balrampur, Azamgarh and Bhadoi districts.
Asserting that “these gruesome incidents of sexual violence reflect the real picture of Indian society constructed on violent casteist patriarchal structure”, the advocacy groups also demanded that the Centre and State governments should “strictly implement” cases of caste and gender based atrocities under relevant sections of the Prevention of Atrocities (PoA) Act, Indian Penal Code and the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO).
Insisting that there should be “fast track all cases of sexual assault on Dalit women and girls” under these laws, the statement said, “We hold the state responsible for providing the impunity enjoyed by the dominant caste in Uttar Pradesh for being complacent and delaying legal investigation and action sin the Hathras gang rape and murder case.”
The advocacy groups demanded prosecution of the police and administrative officials of Hathras, including the district magistrate and the superintendent of police, for forcibly disposing of the remains of the deceased and trespassing her last rites, destroying evidence, harassing the Dalit family, its wrongful confinement, criminal intimidation and physical assault on the victim’s family.
#LockdownCasteAtrocities campaign launched
Meanwhile, the Dalit Human Rights Defenders Network, another advocacy group, has launched a social media campaign in an attempt to bring light cases of atrocities during the pandemic. Especially highlighting cases of atrocities that happened during the pandemic lockdown in collaboration with the Public Bolti, a citizen journalism and media advocacy platform, the campaign has been launched under the hashtag #LockdownCasteAtrocities.
The campaign is focusing on 30 cases for 30 days, each case presented by artists from what are called Bahujan communities, a network statement said, adding, the aim is to educate young people on actrocies against Dalits and Adivasis as also laws such as Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, which need to be used against the perpetrators. In all, the campaign plans to highlight 100 cases.