Authorities remain indifferent to the ongoing sit-in protest at Jantar Mantar, New Delhi by the four young rape survivors and their families
By Team FI
A candle light protest was organised by students and human rights activists outside the Home Minister’s office in New Delhi on Sunday demanding justice for the four young rape survivors from Hisar, Haryana.
The protest was in solidarity to the ongoing sit-in protest by the four Dalit women, two of whom are minor girls. The women along with their families and neighbours have been protesting at Jantar Mantar from April 18 against the local authority’s indifference and inaction.
In March 2014, the four young girls were kidnapped from their village Bhagana, and raped by five youths belonging to the upper caste Jat community. The girls were left near Bhatinda Railway station in Punjab after the alleged crime. When their families approached their village head ( Sarpanch) for help, and said that they would file an FIR, the Sarpanch informed them about the whereabouts of the girls. The girls allege that when the Sarpanch and his men came and picked the girls, he threatened them to keep quiet about the rape and the identity of the perpetrators.
The villagers alleged that the local authorities including the Superintendent of Police Manisha Chaudhury were not only uncooperative but also intimidating. The families took the girls to the hospital in Hisar for a medical test. Though they reached the hospital at 10 in the morning, it was at 1.30 am the next morning when the tests were finally done and an hour later, the SP took their statements.
The Dalits of Bhagana village are no stranger to violence and abuse by the Jat community what with the ongoing social and economic sanctions imposed on them by the upper caste. This was because the Dalit community had protested against the appropriation of their common lands by the Jats in the village.
For these young women from Hisar, there are no hordes of protestors lining the streets of the country’s capital, no outcry of anguish, and not much show of support except from human rights activists, women’s groups and a few student organisations. There is an alarming increase in the sexual violence against Dalit women in the country and Haryana is achieving notoriety with many cases of sexual violence, assault and honour killings being recorded.
In most cases, the survivors get no assistance from the police or administration. With the perpetrators belonging to the ‘upper’ caste in most cases, the caste dominance combined with poverty and lack of political clout ensure that cases, even if an FIR is filed, do not reach resolution and justice is denied or delayed indefinitely.
Women Against Sexual Violence and State Repression (WSS) issued a statement based on their visit and interactions with the rape survivors and their families. FeministsIndia is reproducing the full text of the statement here:
WSS condemns the Sexual Assault of Four Dalit Girls from Village Bhagana, District Hisar, Haryana
In the continuing backlash against Dalit assertion, four young girls of Dalit families (two of whom are minor) from Bhagana village (Hisar district, Haryana) were abducted on 23rd March 2014 and gangraped by 5 Jat boys (3 from Bhagana and 2 from outside of whom one was from Bhiwani). All four girls were then abandoned in the Bhatinda railway station on 23rd March itself. The sarpanch along with the girls’ fathers and brothers reached Bhatinda to bring them back. They were threatened by the head of the village sarpanch who is also the cousin of one of the accused to remain quiet; otherwise they along with their families would suffer dire consequences, even murder.
The context is as follows: In May 2012, 70 Dalit families from Bhagana Village moved with their families, belongings and cattle to the Secretariat, District Magistrate’s office in Hisar to protest against the forceful and unfair land appropriation of their common lands (Shamilat land) by the Jats of the village.
In response to their protests, these Dalits suffered widespread social ostracism and boycotts, including denial of access to water sources by destroying public taps, denial of entry to common land whether for the burial of dead animals, or for children to play games like football etc. Dalits were unable to move around freely or even go out for urination or defecation. Even access to doctors was denied as doctors were from the Jat community, who either refused to treat Dalits or charged higher fees. The sale of products has been refused and they have also been prevented from using public transport.
Despite several complaints to the village panchayat, police officials, the administration paid no heed and allowed such incidents and treatment to escalate. Instead of filing FIRs, the police arrested 45 Dalit protestors and charged 6 with sedition charges though these were later dropped. While some families continued their protests at the secretariat, a few families decided to stay back whether out of fear or due to economic necessity. It is girls from these families who were then abducted and sexually assaulted on 23rd March 2014.
In spite of threats from the Jat community not to take up this case, FIRs were filed on March 25 and the girls underwent medical examination. Cases have been booked under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 (POCSO), Prevention of Atrocities Act, 1989 and Sections 363/366/366A/376/120B/328 of the IPC. Copies of these are with the families who have come to Delhi to demand justice and are now at Jantar Mantar. While five of the accused have been arrested, the demand to arrest another seven people remains. In conversation with members of WSS who visited the families at Jantar Mantar, these details were courageously and openly shared. The girls are sitting in protest too, the youngest being 13 and the eldest 18 years. They were going to school (classes 7 to 10) but have dropped out now. Their fathers work as agricultural labourers or engaged in other daily wage work. Other women present said that such sexual violence perpetrated on Dalits by Jats is by no means new but what is new is the reasons why they attacked them in this way. ‘We have no wealth’, one of the women said, ‘so they plunder the little that we have, namely our izzat.’ ‘But we are here in this city to get justice.’
WSS stands in solidarity with their struggle and their courageous battle for justice and dignity.
We demand that:
1. All land be restored to Dalits that is due to them. This includes allotments under the Mahatma Gandhi Vikas Yojana and also the Shamilat land rights.
2. Safe passage and return to the village for Dalits must be provided to ensure that they can live in security and dignity.
3. Survivors of sexual assault must be given the full compensation according to Government of Haryana provisions. Their education which has had to be discontinued must be provided. All threats to them and their families must cease.
4. All false cases lodged in 2012 against Dalit men and women be withdrawn immediately.
5. All the accused Jats including the sarpanch, who have been intimidating and threatening them be arrested and cases taken forwarded.