New Delhi: Protests by workers and peasant organisations were held in several states on Tuesday demanding justice for the alleged gang-rape of a dalit girl in Hathras as well as rising atrocities against marginalised sections of the society.
The protest was jointly called by Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU), All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS), and All India Agricultural Workers Union (AIWAU).
The 19-year old girl, belonging to the landless Valmiki caste, was brutally assaulted and allegedly raped by four dominant landed Thakur men in Hathras, Uttar Pradesh, last month. She later succumbed to her injuries on September 29 at the Safdarjung Hospital in Delhi.
In Delhi, the protest was held in Jantar Mantar, bringing together workers from different sections, who sought justice for the marginalised sections of society who were the worst victims of “neo-liberal” policies that encourage land reforms and privatisation.
“… The exploitation of the working people and the oppression of any assertion will manifest as caste/gender oppression in our country especially in the countryside,” the organisations had said in a statement dated October 7.
Demonstrations were staged in various states, such as Himachal Pradesh, West Bengal, Telangana, and Kerala among others, demanding that
a time-bound Supreme Court-supervised probe be done in the matter.
Speaking with NewsClick over the phone, Tapan Sen, general secretary, CITU, pointed out how the heinous crime was integrally linked to the larger project of marginalising dalits and oppressed sections under the “crisis-ridden neo-liberal order.”
“The structural economic crisis is no longer easy to sustain, hence it has given rise to authoritarianism, which is squeezing out every form of the democratic set-up. This, in turn, is inspiring anarchy in the society and criminal desperation in the minds of those who hold power, against the downtrodden sections,” he said.
Sen said such crimes were further “provoked and emboldened” by governments in power to maintain the ruling status quo.
Vikram Singh of AIAWU said: “Look at the states where crimes against dalit, women and other socially backward sections are increasing as the years go by. These are mostly those where Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is the ruling and where it has pushed forward its dual agenda of Hindutva politics and neo-liberal policies.”
The recently released figures on crimes in the country back Singh’s assertion – for instance in BJP-ruled Uttar Pradesh.
The Crime in India-2019 report by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) – the latest one – notes an increase in crimes against Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, with Uttar Pradesh topping the list in crimes against SCs.
UP, with Yogi Adityanath as its Chief Minister, came second only to Rajasthan when it comes to incidents of rape in 2019, according to the report.
Reportedly, UP is also the state with highest presence males in the informal sector at 86.9%, as highlighted by a recently released Oxfam report on Commitment to Reducing Inequality Index (CRII).
To woo industries in the wake of pandemic-triggered economic disruptions, the UP state cabinet, in a controversial move, exempted establishments from all labour laws but four for the period of next three years.
Several academicians have argued that labour laws, among others, help redistribute economic and political power, and more importantly wealth. The dilution of labour laws is an important tool of neo-liberal policies and will far-reaching consequences, they point out.
Which is why, Singh said, “we are demanding not just justice for the Hathras victim but land and housing to all landless and jobs along with minimum wages for all.” This, according to him, will ensure in empowering the vulnerable classes.
Hannan Mollah, general secretary, AIKS, also condemned the BJP government for “shamelessly protecting” the perpetrators of the crime and “openly supporting the threatening and terrorising activities of landlord groups in UP.”
“They (BJP) say beti bachao, beti padhao (Save the girl child, educate the girl child) but what they do is actually is ‘beti jalao’ ( burn the daughter),” he said, while referring to the late night cremation of the dead body of the Hathras victim in her village by UP police, reportedly with her family barricaded in their house.
“This is nothing but a manuvaadi concept under which the dignity of a woman is denigrated,” Mollah said, accusing BJP – with RSS as its ideological parent – for upholding such ideas.