by Pallavi Polanki Sep 4, 201

“She was also a 20-year-student who had gone to write her final year exam. She is our Nirbhaya. What can we, as Dalit women, ask from this shameful government that has failed to protect us and failed to grant us our right to life?” said Asha Kowtal of the All India Dalit Mahila Adhikar Manch.

Kotwal is a member of a fact-finding team comprising lawyers, journalists and activists investigating the death of Dalit student whose body was found near a deserted canal in Jind, Haryana on 25 August. She was speaking to the media on Tuesday after the release of an eight-page ‘Report of the fact finding investigation conducted to ascertain facts in the case of the alleged rape and murder of Dalit girl from Jind district in Haryana’. Reuters The body of the student, daughter of a construction worker from the village of Baniyakheda, was found on 25 August, a day after she arrived in Jind to take a teacher training exam.

The Haryana Police’s failure to conduct an impartial investigation into her death has turned into a symbol for the community much like the 23-year student (named ‘Nirbhaya’ by a section of the media) who was gangraped in Delhi on 16 December and later died at a Singapore hospital.

The state’s Dalit community, women’s rights activists and other backward castes have erupted in anger at law enforcement officials notorious for refusing to register cases of sexual crimes committed against women, let alone investigate them. Women from the village who saw the girl’s body told journalists who were part of the fact-finding team that the physical bruises indicated sexual assault and murder.

Meanwhile, the police and the district administration, The Hindu reported last week, have “given out contradictory statements that her death was due to suicide, poisoning and mosquito bites.” “The Haryana government does not want yet another Dalit rape case to be reported in the media. That is why they have unleashed this propaganda of poison being found her body. The women from the village who saw the body of the girl were in tears while describing what they saw. They couldn’t express in words the horror they saw,” the family’s lawyer Rajat Kalsan told the assembled media.

While the FIR filed by the police on 25 August is registered under sections of rape and murder, the police has shown no signs of tracking down or arresting the culprits. Residents of the village held a six-day long dharna outside the Jind Civil Hospital, holding on to the girl’s body, demanding justice, after doctors at the hospital ruled out rape and murder. A second post-mortem at Rohtak came to the same conclusion. The report of a third post-mortem conducted at AIIMS in Delhi after the National Commission of Women stepped in and wrote to the Haryana government is yet to be handed over to the family.

The girl’s father who came to Delhi on Tuesday (3 September) to get a copy of the report returned empty-handed after being told by doctors at AIIMS that the report had been sent to the concerned investigating officer. Kalsan has already moved court for a copy of the report to be made available to the family. Raising questions about the Haryana Police’s handling of the case, the fact-finding report points out: “The police failed to register a ‘missing person’ complaint and refused to conduct a prompt search for the missing girl on 24 August, when the incident was first brought to their notice by the family.

They failed to ensure a proper and rigorous post-mortem and thus the girl’s body had to be moved from Jind to Rohtak and then to Delhi’s AIIMS hospital. No one has been arrested even after a week of the girl’s death in spite of all the protests.” “If the police had tried to look for her on the day she went missing, perhaps, she would have been amid us today. Had she been the daughter of an SP or DC or from a so-called high-caste family or a rich family, all of Jind’s police force would have been put on duty to find her,” said Kalsan. Speaking about Haryana Police’s reputation when it comes registering crimes against Dalit women, Supreme Court lawyer and women’s rights activist Vrinda Grover said, “In previous cases in Haryana, we see that it is only after a lot of effort on the part of the families and the communities that FIRs are registered or any kind of police action is initiated. In the Criminal Law Amendment Bill, which is now a law, one of the main things we had asked for is that if an FIR is not registered or investigation not done in accordance with law, it should be a punishable offence.

Today it is a crime under Section 166A of the Indian Penal Code.” “It is an open challenge to anybody in Haryana if they have prosecuted even a single police officer under section 166A for dereliction of duty, for not lodging an FIR promptly or for not conducting the investigation in accordance with the law and causing prejudice to the women because any delay investigation is bound to hurt the case.” An emotional Vimal Thorat, national convenor of the All India Dalit Mahila Adhikar Manch, recounted a seemingly unending list of brutalities committed against Dalit women and the government’s utter failure to act against perpetrators. “Should we make a claim for a separate state for Dalits where no one will dare touch our children, dishonour our women and kill them?

A state that will allow us to live our lives peacefully. A state that will permit us to go to schools. A state that will allow us to go toilets without fear. A state that will give the basic right to life,” asked a visibly angry Thorat.

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