Hathras horror & Babri acquittal: India wakes up to outrage


India woke up to memes, cartoons, banner headlines and outrage Thursday, a day after a special Central Bureau of Investigation court acquitted all 32 accused, including stalwart BJP leaders such as LK Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi, in the demolition of the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya, Uttar Pradesh, December 6, 1992, and a brutalized young woman’s body was cremated in Uttar Pradesh by police, allegedly without the participation of the woman’s family.

Several news outlets, social media commentators and others tied up the two cases to lament the state of justice in India.

Kolkata’s The Telegraph, known for its anti-establishment stand in general and anti-Narendra Modi stand in particular, delivered a front page with a half-page photograph of a donkey, with a massive headline declaring WHAT WE ARE and a smaller strap preceding it: If we’re indeed shocked, this is…

Next to the photograph, the text read: The events that led to December 6, 1992, and September 30, 2020, unfolded right in front of our eyes. We knew without doubt who did it, why they did it and what it cost the nation as blood flowed. Yet, we legitimised them and rewarded them, in election after election — and now we are braying in despair!”

The Mumbai Mirror, a tabloid from The Times of India stable that is immensely popular in India’s commercial capital, had on its front page two photographs side by side. One showed policemen standing next to the funeral pyre of the Dalit woman who had allegedly been gang-raped by four upper-caste men, her tongue cut off, and left to die in Hathras, UP, and the other showed people demolishing the mosque in Ayodhya.

The strap read: Two acts of desecration. Zero consequences, followed by the headline: BURNING, BROKEN, THE IDEA OF (You fill in the rest).

It was not just newspapers that spoke out.

Markandey Katju, a retired judge of India’s Supreme Court known for his controversial opinions post-retirement, sought to underline deep malaises in a social media post.

“I condemn the Hathras gang rape, and call for harsh punishment of the culprits,”he wrote.

“However, having said that there is one aspect which also needs to be considered. Sex is a natural urge in men. It is sometimes said that after food, the next requirement is sex. In a conservative society like India, one can ordinarily have sex only through marriage. But when there is massive and rising unemployment, a large number of young men cannot marry (as no girl will ordinarily marry an unemployed man). Consequently a large number of young men remain deprived of sex, even though they have reached an age when it is a normal requirement. The population of undivided India before 1947 was about 42 crores. Today India alone has about 135 crore people, which means there has been a fourfold increase in population since 1947. But the number of jobs increased are far less than fourfold. In fact it is believed that in June 2020 alone 12 crore Indians lost their jobs. Therefore will there not be increase in rapes? I once again make it clear that I am not justifying rapes, rather I condemn it. But considering the situation prevailing in the country they are bound to increase. So if we really want to end or reduce rapes we have to create a social and economic system in India in which there is no or little unemployment.”

“I reiterate, I condemn the gang rape, and call for harshest punishment of the culprits,” he added.

Others pointed to a culture of impunity of the upper castes.

The National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights in a statement pointed out assaults on Dalit — the lowest rung in the caste hierarchy — were increasing in Uttar Pradesh, and cited 12 such reported assaults in the last two months in Lakhimpur Kheri and Saharanpur districts.

“These gruesome incidents of sexual violence reflect the real picture of Indian society, constructed on violent casteist patriarchal structure,” the statement said.

The campaign’s convener, Vimal Thorat, told The Telegraph: “If the police had taken prompt action, these incidents could have been reduced to a great extent. But the culprits are committing assaults with impunity.”

Even as the outrage was building, it was reported Thursday that another Dalit woman who had been drugged and gang-raped had died in Balrampur district.