The Rashtriya Savarna Parishad, an upper-caste Hindu group, in a shameless attempt to protect the rapists in the Hathras case, came out in protest to the front of the SP office in Chandpa, according to a newspaper clipping that has been circulating on social media.
Manisha Valmiki, a 19 year old Dalit woman was gangraped and tortured by four Thakur-Rajput men in Hathras on September 14. Abducted while working on her family’s fields, she was found injured and bleeding in the Thakur-owned part of the fields, almost unconscious and left to die by her rapists, Ramu, Ravi, Luvkush, and Sandeep. The accused Thakurs live right across from the home of the victim.
At first, Manisha had named Sandeep, against whom an FIR had been filed for attempt to murder, as well as the SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act. Later on September 21 and 22, she named the others as her assaulters as well and the police then added the penal section of gangrape to the FIR. However, in almost 2 weeks, the police and medical personnel still did not medically confirm that she had been raped, giving excuses of heavy caseload and so on.
A report by Akanksha Kumar and Nidhi Suresh highlights the caste motivations of the Hathras case. The Thakur family feels insulted by the fact that the Valmiki family no longer works in their homes as manual scavengers and cleaners in exchange for meagre payments. Their apparent lack of subservience is an insult to the Thakur family’s caste, who have hence attempted to retaliate and intimidate them for years. Nearly 20 years ago, the Thakur family had attacked the victim’s grandfather, because he dared to ask them to not graze their buffaloes in their field. They had tried to stab him with a knife, and ended up cutting away his fingers. Six months ago, the Thakur family had threatened to kill the Valmiki family to the victim.
It is clear that the violence against Manisha was a premeditated act of caste violence aimed at subjugating and intimidating the Valmiki family, who have attempted to preserve their dignity in spite of the widespread practise of untouchability in Hathras.
The rapists were part of the Rashtriya Savarna Parishad, according to Janjwar. Under Pankaj Dhavaraya, the group is attempting to protect the caste interests based on which the crime was committed. Maligning the victim and calling it a fake case in order to assert the impunity of Thakur-Rajput and other savarna men to commit sexual violence against Dalit women, even as the victim’s family faces injustice upon injustice in the aftermath of the crime.
This is not new, as casteist and communal groups have made it a point to support sexual violence against marginalized women and girls. Around two years ago, after the abduction, rape, and murder of an 8 year old Muslim girl belonging to a nomadic tribe by Hindu priests and police officers, a similar defence of the rapists had followed. Right-wing Hindu groups, including members of the BJP, came out to protest in support of the accused. As upper-caste Hindu men use Bahujan women’s bodies to assert their power, the rest of their caste society comes out in support, recognising the true nature of their crimes. Meanwhile, progressive Savarnas try their best to undermine the caste motivations of sexual violence in India.
What Manisha Valmiki and her family are having to suffer is a travesty of justice, and a shame for caste-Hindu society. No amount of compensation or empty assurances from politicians will undo the caste brutalities thousands of Dalit families have to face in this country, in most of which Savarna rapists, murderers, looters, abusers, and so on, go scot-free after years of harassing and intimidating the victims.
Manisha, who was suffering from paralysis of four limbs and respiratory problems, succumbed to her injuries on September 29, exactly fourteen years after the Khairlanji Massacre. Late in the night, at around 2:30 am on Wednesday, the UP police forcefully cremated her body against her family’s wishes, depriving them of even the right to see the body.