#Opinion

Delhi Minor Murder Case: When Cremations Make Bigger Headlines Than Rape

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Delhi minor murder case: The alleged rape and murder of a nine-year-old Dalit minor, at hands of a priest and his associates who used to work at a crematorium has outraged the nation. Protests and hashtags are emerging nationwide, demanding justice. The case, however, has an eerie similarity to the Hathras gangrape and murder, as here too, the girl’s body was almost forcefully cremated (as claimed by the girl’s mother) after her death.

The minor had reportedly gone to the crematorium to fetch cold water from the newly installed water cooler on its premise. Half an hour later, the priest and his associates called the girl’s mother and claimed that she has died due to electrocution. The mother later alleged that she was coerced into cremating the child and discouraged from reporting her death to the police, as it would lead to an autopsy, during which the doctors would remove her daughter’s organs and sell them.

In September last year, a 19-year-old Dalit woman was allegedly gangraped by four upper-caste men in Hathras, Uttar Pradesh. The woman passed away while undergoing treatment at Delhi’s Safdarjung Hospital. The deceased woman’s family went on to allege that they were forced into cremating her body at night by the Uttar Pradesh police, even after they insisted on conducting the cremation the next morning. The local administration responded to the allegations, claiming that the cremation was conducted to prevent the miscreants from making the incident political.

It is a tragedy that in India, rape and sexual crimes against women have become so routine for us that they fail to rile us unless there are extraordinary circumstances involved, or if the crime is so heinous that it curdles our blood. The Hathras incident made headlines not when the Dalit woman levied accusations of gangrape, or even when she passed away, but when her body was reportedly cremated forcibly. The image of policemen standing in front of what looks like a makeshift funeral pyre is what has stayed with us from the entire incident.

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Image credit: NDTV

The Lucknow Bench of Allahabad High Court noted during a hearing of the case in October that it was not satisfied with the reasons that UP authorities gave in order to justify the cremation, without the consent of her family members and without following any rituals. “This action of the State Authorities, though in the name of law and order situation, is prima facie an infringement upon the human rights of the victim,” the bench further noted.

These two separate crimes have not just managed to move us because of their gruesome nature, but because these two daughters of India were denied a proper farewell, as per the wishes of their parents. Yes, in one case it was the authorities that allegedly coerced the family, while in the Delhi case it was the perpetrators, the fact remains that death of a suspected rape survivor was followed by an urgency to “dispose” off the matter, and their families got caught in the middle. Amidst all the coercing and pressure, their parents and loved ones didn’t even get to say a final goodbye on their terms.

Be it Hathras, or Delhi, these cases are yet again a reminder of our failure to protect our daughters from crimes that cut their lives short. The denial to proper cremation may make headlines, but the story that should remain with us is of our collective failure to protect them and create a safe space for them to live on.

The views expressed are the author’s own.