The Hathras outrage acquired a political colour from the word go. Even before the police, in a most cruel manner performed the last rites of the 19-year-old rape-cum-murder victim, Opposition politicians had begun to chase her parents, encouraging them to condemn the authorities for the grave crime. It was clear partisan politics would dog the case from the investigation stage to its denouement months, or even years later, in the higher courts. Probably anticipating the by now familiar path such cases take, the state government first ordered a probe by a Special Investigation Team.
When that seemed insufficient to assuage the gravity of the appalling assault on the Dalit girl, and the Allahabad High Court suo motu issued notice to the authorities, the UP government followed up with its decision to hand over the case to the CBI. However, in an extraordinary move on Tuesday, the state government went to the Supreme Court to demand that it monitor the CBI investigations. Rarely has a state government in all such cases approached the apex court of its own volition to seek judicial monitoring of investigations. Quite clearly, the Yogi government was keen to defang the Opposition, which alleges a bid to protect the culprits.
That the four alleged perpetrators were already in police custody following the registration of an FIR accusing them of gang rape, seemed to counter the charge that the government was amiss in pursuing the culprits. One major lapse thus far was to cremate the body without allowing the family to have a final 'darshan’ of their daughter’s face. This was a most insensitive nocturnal misdeed, but the authorities justified it on the grounds of avoiding a law-and-order situation. For, like vultures, politicians of all hues had begun to converge on the village in Hathras to advance their partisan agendas.
Such outrageous crimes against women, unfortunately, are a regular occurrence in India, particularly in the Hindi heartland. Rajasthan, for instance, has shown the highest spurt in crimes against women, including rape and molestations, in the last year under review. What was particularly troublesome about the Hathras incident is that initially police denied that the girl was raped on the basis of her examination ten days after the incident, while she was being treated in a hospital in Aligarh for severe spinal injuries. The police based the no-rape conclusion on the doctors’ report, which said that there were no traces of semen on her body. How could anyone expect to find these a good ten days after the heinous crime, anyway?
There is no denying that the Yogi government has been forced on the backfoot by the Hathras atrocity. Its loud claims on restoring law and order suffered a blow in the public mind following the Dalit girl’s violent ordeal. Even for the BJP, the high-profile crime against a Valmiki woman was potentially challenging, since among the considerable Dalit vote in the state, the Valmiki component overwhelmingly supports the party while Mayawati’s BSP polls a disproportionately high percentage of the more numerous and dominant Jatav vote. In other words, to suggest that the criminals who raped and killed the Hathras girl were politically motivated would be wrong.
The age-old caste paradigm still operative in the rural hinterland in this day and age reflects itself in everyday upper caste exploitation of Dalits in a million undignified ways. Injection of divisive politics further accentuates fissures in the society, instead of treating each crime on merit and pursuing the culprits strictly by the book. For instance, reports spoke of Thakurs and Brahmins getting together to protest their blanket condemnation by those targeting the UP Chief Minister, a Thakur, using the tragedy of the Hathras family as a shooting platform.
Of course, the Gandhi legatees, the brother and sister duo of Rahul and Priyanka, were first off the block, literally holding the hand of the father and mother of the deceased respectively, in a bid to regain the lost Dalit vote for the family-owned party. Even the victims seemed to be aware why politicians of all hues were beating a track to their home. Over two decades of 24x7 television had helped even ordinary folks wise up to the cynical ways of our politicians.
The parents of the 19-year-old victim of a gruesome crime cannot be unaware that sooner, than later, they will cease to be the focus of public and media attention. And then they will have to come to terms with the reality, yet again, of their dreary lives. Their tutoring by peripatetic journalists and politicians to hold the authorities guilty of criminal neglect for scoring brownie points against the Yogi government does not help them in any way. It is exploiting their misery for selfish ends in their hour of grave tragedy.