This article highlights the viewpoints of dalit activists who are on the ground meeting rape survivors and their families in Haryana. This article will be regularly updated as we gather more information.
Nearly a month after a Dalit girl was raped and her father committed suicide in Hisar village after Haryana Police failed to arrest any of the accused, allegedly all members of the upper caste, a fact-finding committee of the All-India Dalit Mahila Adhikar Manch noted that though the accused were later arrested after pressure from the general public, the immediate fall-out of incident has been "the fear that has set into the minds of Dalit parents and girls living in the area."
The foremost concern expressed by dalit women activists has been about the survivors, and to find ways of creating support structures to provide individual counseling, legal and economic aid to them.
Giving details about the findings of the committee at a press conference here on Friday, Manch member Asha Kowtal said: "It is surprising that though all the accused were know bad elements, they were not under the police radar. The arrest of the accused was a result of strong protests by Dalit and women's groups of the village, who refused to cremate the body of the victim's father till the accused were arrested. Worse, the Dalits of the village still live under fear. The relatives of the rape survivor said that after the incident many people had stopped sending their daughters to school even in the village and the older girls to college in Hisar."
On SC, ST commissions
A report by a group of organisations on consecutive incidents of rape of Dalit women in Haryana alleged that the SC/ST commissions to address issues are either defunct or not empowered to take concrete action against the culprits involved in such incidents.
Asha Kowtal, General Secretary of the All India Dalit Mahila Adhikar Manch (AIDMAM), alleged that most of these cases go un-reported due to the lack of a functional SC/ST Commission in the state that would take up the issues with the state government.
"The women rights bodies across the states in the country have been demanding a system of speedy redressal of such cases to bring the culprits to justice, and a counseling system for the victims since such cases involve a lot of mental trauma for the victims and the families" said Prasad Srivella of National Dalit Movement for Justice.
Apathy of civil society
In spite of the media attention, the activists on the ground feel that there is no real anger from the Civil Society regarding this issue.
The activists raised concern over the lack of attention from the civil society into the issue. "The civil-society today needs to stand up and express the same anger that we noticed six years ago during a nation-wide campaign for Jessica Lal," said Asha Kowtal, a campaigner for Dalit rights.
The report further claims that since the Hisar gangrape, there have been six reported cases of Dalit rape, while 10 more went unreported. While addressing the media, the activists raised concern over the security of the victim as well as that of the defending lawyer. Rajat Kalsan, who is defending the victim as a public prosecutor, was beaten earlier by upper caste lawyers when he was defending the gruesome Mirchpur case, where a Dalit colony was burnt down by the upper castes resulting into two deaths.
Future Plan of Action
They are also planning to hold a state level "yatra" sometime during this month in Haryana to spread awareness about crime against Dalit women.
Asha Kotwal, general secretary of the AIDMAM, said the programme for a national-level rally had been finalised for November 23 in New Delhi.
More than 3,000 Dalit men and women from Haryana will visit the Capital to participate in the event.
The rally will also aim to spread awareness among the Dalits about their rights and try to wake up the administration from its slumber so it can act against people involved in crimes against the community.
The organisation has planned a public hearing in Chandigarh in November as well, Asha said. She pointed out that the recent atrocities in Haryana against the Dalits were a cause for alarm.
"The police and government took crimes against the community casually," she said. "It should stop now," she asserted.
Manjula Pradeep, director of NGO Navsarjan Trust, which works on the issues of social justice and human rights violations, revealed they were trying to rope in advocates and other educated members of the community to fight for justice for Dalit women.
"We look forward to setting up a strong network of people who would help Dalit women and other people in need or in trouble," she said.
Please find the Fact Finding Report on the Gangrape of a Dalit girl in Dabra, Haryana, here. Also please read Paul Divakar's interview in which he talks about rape statistics all over the country and its implications on Haryana reports.
More Dalit women voices.
In these video interviews, the activist Mary Kumary Madiga and the writer, activist and feminist Gogu Shymala from Hyderabad, place these rapes in the larger context of dalit women's safety, their assertions and obstacles to their empowerment. Some of our colleagues will translate these interviews into English and post the texts as soon as possible.
Also published in Savari.
Video interviews courtesy: Dalit Camera: Through Un-touchable Eyes.