Asha Kowtal and Jenny Rowena
On 24th August, a 20 year old Dalit girl was brutally raped and murdered in Jind, Haryana, while she was on her way to write an examination. Her mutilated body was found near a canal the next day by the police. There were cigarette burn marks on her body and several indications of sexual violence. It is clear that she was kidnapped, raped and then murdered. However, it has been 4 days now and to this day neither do we have a proper post-mortem report nor have the culprits been identified or arrested. In fact, the general feeling of the family members and various other groups who are protesting against this incident is that the police in Haryana is trying to protect those who are involved.
Protests at AIIMS demanding a third post mortem
There have been very strong protests in Haryana over this but the media and civil society have not given much attention to this case. This is in the background of year long protests against the gang rapes of dalit women in Haryana by Dalit organizations like All India Dalit Mahila Adhikar Manch (Haryana and Delhi). More than 22 such cases of brutal rapes of Dalit women have been documented and are in various stages of legal battles for justice.
Further, this silencing is happening even as India gained international recognition for having witnessed the largest urban protests against the brutal gang rape of Nirbhaya in Dec, 2012. Urban gang rapes are constructed as sexual violence on casteless Indian women, with perpetrators being poor and lower caste migrant males. And the response to these urban gang rapes are heartfelt, immediate and consistent at all levels: civil society, police and criminal justice systems, hospital staff and media personnel along with the larger public giving emotional support to the protests with constant anger maintenance and mobilization in the social media.
However, in this case the only report about it was in TOI where the paper described the protests as a 'mob that went on rampage." Such apathetic responses to the crimes against Dalit women who experience gang rapes more often and more brutally are completely indicative of how the caste society views them as lesser citizens, how the feminist movement views them as lesser women and how all the institutions work to demonstrate indifference against caste and gender crimes committed routinely on Dalit women.
A little background
Given below is a detailed report of the sequential incidents regarding this case, from the day the body of the girl was found:
On August 24th, the 20 year old Dalit girl's mutilated body was found near a canal in Jind in Haryana. The police in Jind hurriedly got an autopsy conducted in the civil hospital and declared that it was neither a case of rape nor of murder. The outraged family and the villagers feel that the administration is tampering with evidence. They strongly protested and refused to bury the body of the girl. The protesters (see the pictures from a local newspaper) including the family members of the woman staged a dharna at the bus stand with the girl's body.
The police lathi charged the protesters and even beat up the bereaved family members, including women who were sitting in peaceful protest. Four young boys who were protesting were arrested. It is also alleged that the police kicked the body of the dead girl. Moreover, the SP of Jind issued a statement on the incident in which he declared that this was not a case of rape and murder.
After much agitation and the interventions of various activists, NCSC Director, Chandigarh region, Raj Kumar Chhannena ordered a second post mortem, which was conducted in Rohtak on Aug. 27, 2013. This post mortem was also done hurriedly, and by noon, the administration released a media statement where they once again declared that this was neither rape nor murder. Local activists, including Advocate Rajat Kalsan, immediately alerted AIDMAM in New Delhi.
From here began the struggle to mobilize voices for justice. Numerous phone calls, SMS and petitions to the National Commission for Women, National SC Commission, and media were being co-ordinated by the activists at AIDMAM. Continued pressure from a committed group of dalit activists, including a petition by National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights addressed to PL Punia, Chairperson, National SC Commission and Mamta Sharma, Chairperson, National Commission for Women, forced the Haryana police to listen to the demands of the family members and activists. Responses from PL Punia were almost nil, however the Vice Chairperson, Mr. Raj Kumar Verka from NCSC and Ms. Shamina Shafiq from NCW offered their help and sent their notifications to the Haryana administration.
Along with the family members and a few activists, the body of the girl was brought to AIIMS by midnight on August 27th. It has to be noted here that the Haryana police tried to take the body back to the village to conduct the last rites but hundreds of local residents blocked the roads leading to the village and the police were forced to bring the body back to AIIMS, Delhi.
At AIIMS, a lot of technical delays had to be faced due to problems with the documents issued by the DM in Jind, sent with the body to AIIMS. The doctors refused to conduct the autopsy without the proper documents. Again, the activists present started calling the NCW, NCSC and other officials to sort this matter and it was after a long struggle that the body was at last sent for post mortem. But the tired and exhausted family members and activists gathered in front of the mortuary and the main gate of AIIMS and kept protesting the delay.
The body was sent for the third post mortem this afternoon (28th August). A board of five doctors including Dr. S. Gupta had conducted the autopsy at AIIMS. We have initial reports that this autopsy clearly reveals the severe negligence in the first two autopsies that were done in Jind and Rohtak. The body parts have been preserved by AIIMS and the report will be made available tomorrow.
It is extremely important here to note that the members of the family have told activists that they had observed many injuries on the girl's body before it was taken away for the first post mortem. They noticed cigarette burn marks on the neck, breasts and legs, and scratch marks on her chest. They also added that some women from the village who had examined the body had found the entire vaginal area injured as if metal rods were inserted into it. The body was also found in an isolated place near a canal where only drunks and junkies are known to hang out.
All India Dalit Mahila Adhikar Manch and various other student organisations, SAVARI, National Dalit Watch, representatives from Jagori protested in front of the residence of Selja Kumari, Union Minister for Social Jusice & Empowerment today (28 August). Ms Kumari Selja has agreed to meet a delegation of the activists tomorrow at 10 pm.
Meanwhile, a fact finding team from Delhi including Vrinda Grover (Advocate) Asha Kowtal (Secretary, AIDMAM), Jenny Rowena (SAVARI), Kalyani Menon Sen, Nisha Kumari, Kavita Krishnan, journalists from Tehelka, CNN IBN, The Hindu, Times of India, Dainik Jaagran will visit Jind tomorrow. They will visit the family in the village, the SP. DC and other officials.
To conclude, here are the demands that have been put forward by the family of the raped and murdered girl and the many groups and organizations that are protesting this brutal atrocity on the young dalit woman.
1. Transfer the case to CBI.
2. Proper investigation and immediate arrests of culprits.
3. Invoke the relevant sections of SC/ST PoA Act.
4. Immediate legal aid and support be given to the family
5. Remove the false cases on the protesters and immediate release of the four boys who have been arrested
6. Take action against the police who beat up the protesters and the official who kicked the body of the raped and murdered victim.
7. Constitute a special enquiry team to prepare a report on the status of all the rape cases that have been reported in Haryana in the past one year.
8. Union Minister should call for a Round Table discussion with all the concerned officials from Haryana and review the situation.
9. All the national human rights institutions ( NHRC, NCW, NCSC ) should have a joint meeting to discuss the recent crimes against Dalit women in Haryana and release a plan of action to address these issues.