iNDICA NEWS BUREAU
The advocacy group Indian American Muslim Council (IAMC) organized a protest in New Jersey October 10, over the alleged gang rape and killing of a Dalit girl in Hathras in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh.
The IAMC, which says it is “dedicated to safeguarding India’s pluralist and tolerant ethos,” said that the “hasty and forceful cremation of the victim’s body by the Uttar Pradesh police has sent shock waves across India and indeed around the world. The inhumanity of the crime was amplified by the brazenness of the state government’s attempt to shield the perpetrators.”
The alleged indifference by those in positions of power was the focus of the ire and outrage by protesters at the rally.
The protest was organized by the New Jersey unit of IAMC, and was supported by members of other civil society groups such as Hindus for Human Rights, India Civil Watch, Sadhana, Students Against Hindutva Ideology, Muslims for Progressive Values, MANAVI, Dalit Solidarity Forum and Global Indian Progressive Alliance among others.
“The Hindu nationalist government in India protects perpetrators of brutal sexual crimes against Dalit women, because it doesn’t treat Dalits as equal citizens,” said Minhaj M Khan, president of the New Jersey chapter of the IAMC, at the protest Saturday.
The protesters demanded justice for the Dalit victim, who died in a hospital in Delhi two weeks after she was allegedly gang-raped by four men. She was paralyzed due to severe injuries to her spinal cord, leading to national and international outrage and protests.
“Dalit lives do not matter under India’s Hindu nationalist government and the state of Uttar Pradesh has only acted in a manner consistent with the national government’s repressive policies towards Dalits and religious minorities,” Khan alleged. “Not only did the state’s chief minister Adityanath deny that the girl was raped, he refused a dignified death to her, and protected the culprits because they are from the same upper caste as him.”
Jawad Khan, national general secretary of the IAMC, highlighted that according to India’s National Crime Records Bureau more than 500 Dalit women were raped in Uttar Pradesh in 2019. In 2018 almost 3,000 Dalit women were raped in UP of whom 871 were minors, he said, adding that on an average eight Dalit women are raped everyday in India.
The protesters, who wore masks, raised placards and slogans against what they called India’s Hindu nationalist government, as well as UP chief minister Yogi Adityanath.
Dr Murli Natarajan from India Civil Watch International said that the “brutality that happened in Hathras was yet another in a very long series of moral horrors perpetrated against Dalits by caste-supremacist patriarchs.”
“We condemn their brazen denial of the rape, their cowardly cover-up of the frequency of rapes, their shameless glorification of the rapists, their bigoted denigration of rape victims, and their denial to the family of the right to grieve with dignity,” he added.
A representative of Dalit Solidarity forum in the US said that the protest was an expression of condemnation of “the rapid increase in the unacceptable social condition of Dalit women unable to defend rights to our own bodies and self-respect. We are repeatedly devalued, raped and mutilated.”
Nilab Nusrat, a representative from Hindus for Human Rights, said: “I can’t stay silent when a 19-year-old girl is getting gang-raped and killed and the rapists are not brought to justice because they are members of the upper caste.”