What Happened One Night in a Village in India
On May 27, two Dalit (of the oppressed Maurya caste) girls were kidnapped, raped, killed and lynched in a small village in northern India. The case evoked outrage across India because the act was made graphic by the release of a picture of the girls’ hanging from a mango tree. On May 31, a delegation from the All-India Democratic Women’s Association (AIDWA) visited the small village of Saadatgang in Badaun District (Uttar Pradesh). The delegation comprised of Jagmati Sangwan (General Secretary of AIDWA) and Sehba Farooqui (Secretary of AIDWA). They went along with Rajeev Shant and Banne Ali of the UP branch of the All-India Agricultural Workers’ Union. This is their report.
AIDWA’s delegation met the parents of the victims (the girls were cousins), many villagers, media persons and some police personnel. The Yadav community dominates the region and many members are known for their bullying and aggressive tactics. These have become more pronounced under the present Samajwadi Party regime [which rules the state government of Uttar Pradesh]. Many police officers and personnel posted in the area also belong to the same community.
Generally poor people in the area are completely intimidated by them and this was something that was expressed to members of the delegation by many people that they met. The accused all belong to the Yadav community and are recent migrants to the area. The families of the victims are extremely poor agricultural labourers. They live in mud huts without any electricity or toilets.
On the night of 27th May, the two girls had gone to the nearby fields to answer nature’s call. A relative who went to the fields a little later heard them screaming and tried to look for them but could not see them. He returned to the village and told others what he had heard. The parents of the two girls became very agitated since the girls were missing and the fathers went to the Police chowki [post] in the village itself. The policemen on duty pretended to be sleeping. When they were woken up they pretended to be very angry and started shouting at the poor fathers. Finally, they said that they knew where the girls were and that they would be “returned” after two hours. The poor, desperate men [the fathers] felt that they had no other choice but to go home and wait for their daughters to be “returned.” It seems that little has changed in rural India in the last thousand years.
When the girls did not return, their family members hired a jeep and left for the district headquarters at 4.00 a.m. They were chased by a policeman on a bike who told them to look for their daughters in the mango orchard. When they reached there, they saw the horrible sight of their daughters hanging dead from the tree.
The families of the girls are convinced that the policemen were also part of the gang that raped and killed their daughters. The Uttar Pradesh government has announced payment of compensation to the families; they have received nothing. They said that they cannot survive without help.
The AIDWA delegation demands:
1. In the FIR [First Information Report] lodged by the police, the accused policemen have been charged with abetment (120B) whereas they should be named as the accused (Sec. 166). This is in keeping with the Justice Verma Commission (2013) recommendations.
2. Proper financial aid should be given to the families immediately and the Uttar Pradesh government must announce a policy of compensation and rehabilitation of ALL rape victims instead of continuing with its current policy of “pick and choose.”
3. Fast track courts for all cases of rape in the State should be established.
4. Toilets must be provided for in all rural areas. This is necessary for the health and security of women and girls.
5. Proper security must be provided to the families of the victims since the accused are themselves policemen.
Jagmati Sangwan is General Secretary of AIDWA.
Sehba Farooqui is Secretary of AIDWA.