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Letter from over 10000 feminists demands action against Hathras rapists, highlights caste based violence

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Over 10,000 people from all walks of life, cutting across caste, religion, gender, occupation and community came together to demand justice for the heinous rape, brutalising attack and murder of a young Dalit woman from Hathras. These were feminists from almost every state in India and more than a dozen countries across the world such US, UK, Canada, Australia, UAE, Hong Kong, Japan, Nepal, Netherlands, Sweden, Slovenia etc

In a sharp statement condemning the incident, they got together to say that “despite a continuing saga of countless other cases of brutal sexual assault and murders especially of young Dalit women the conscience of this nation does not seem to be shaken enough to do anything serious to stop the systematic targeting of women, Dalits and the poor.”

The statement, via email release, specifically targetted the UP government. It added, “We believe that a proper course of justice, fair investigation, holding the guilty persons and police and other state officials responsible are the only way forward. It is only fear of certain justice and accountability that can stop privileged men from committing such crimes. The state must not, we repeat NOT, push a rhetoric of death penalty for rape – for we have seen time and again that that is not the answer to stopping crimes, sexual or otherwise, anywhere in the world. After all, in our own country, it is barely 6 months since the hanging of those held guilty of the December 2012 gang rape and murder in Delhi. Has it stopped the guilty of Hathras, or Balramur, or Bulandshahr or Azamgarh… or anywhere else?”

Many cases of sexual violence on Dalit women have come up from Lakhimpur Kheri, Balrampur, Lucknow, Azamgarh, all in UP. “The growing support base for Thakurs, the fact that no official visited the girl’s family even once after her death, tells us the facts as they are, nobody cares and caste solidarity remains one of the ugliest and strongest kinship performances of the modern Indian State and one that must be challenged and broken. The actions of the state will only further strengthen those who continue to commit such crimes without any fear of punishment,” noted the statement.

While the caste atrocities gain public attention only when they manifest themselves as sexual violence, suicide or murders, we also need to understand the ways in which caste manifests itself in our daily lives. “The Hathras case is a blatant case of upper caste power and patriarchy operating through both, socially sanctioned violence and through state agencies,” said the detailed note signed by members of society and women’s rights activists.

“We affirm our efforts to address the issue of caste based discrimination, violence and atrocities, until its complete annihilation.”

The signatories sought strict action against both, those guilty of the crimes of gangrape and murder, as well as officials who manhandled the case, exposed the identity of the victim and wilfully destroyed crucial forensic evidence.

The signatories included voices like Dr Syeda Hamid, Aruna Roy, Maimoona Mollah, Annie Raja, Beena Pallical, Cynthia Stephens, Rose Dzuvichu, Masooma Ranalvi, Roshmi Goswami, Anjali Bharadwaj, Kavita Krishnan, Dr Ajita Rao, Kalyani Menon Sen, Chayanika Shah, Rituparna, Bittu, Shampa Sengupta, Ranjana Padhi, Elina Horo, Sabina Martins Jarjum Ete, Kiran Deshmukh, Rita Manchanda, Meera Sangamitra, Feroze Mithiborwala  among others.