Dalit rights activist questions government's silence on gangrape-murder of two minor girls in Lakhimpur Kheri

Two minor Dalit sisters in Lakhimpur Kheri district were gangraped and murdered yesterday. Their dead bodies were found hanging from a tree. As reflected in the latest data on the crime records in India, the incident is not an isolated case as every third rape victim belonging to the Dalit community is a minor. Also, 12.22 per cent of the total rape cases reported in the country are of women belonging to the Dalit community.

Shivani GuptaShivani Gupta   15 Sep 2022 11:29 AM GMT

Dalit rights activist questions governments silence on gangrape-murder of two minor girls in Lakhimpur Kheri

Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh

Last evening, on September 14, the dead bodies of two sisters aged 15 years and 17 years belonging to the Scheduled Caste (SC) community, were found hanging from a tree in an agricultural field in Lakhimpur Kheri's Tamoli Purwa village. The autopsy report mentions that the girls were gangraped and strangulated to death before their bodies were hung from the tree.

Two years ago on the same day, a nineteen-year-old Dalit girl was dragged into a field by four men and was gang raped. So brutal was the sexual assault, that she was left with her tongue bitten off, her spinal cord fractured and there were strangulation marks on her neck. The trauma left her paralysed and she breathed her last fifteen days after the assault.

Talking to Gaon Connection about the incident, Beena Palickal, a Dalit human rights activists associated with National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights (NCDHR), stated that at a time when there should be strong comments from the government and National Commission for Women, there is absolute silence on the incident.

Also Read: Gangrape suspected as bodies of two Dalit girls found hanging in UP's Lakhimpur Kheri, 6 arrested

"Look at the mindset of perpetrators. They are trying to prove their audacity that you can not only rape and kill but you can also hang the girl on a tree to put a show. Such crimes happen because there is no action taken and impunity is high," Palickal said.

She also remarked that such crimes involving sexual crimes have a socio-economic undercurrent.

"Due to abject poverty, Dalit girls are easy targets for perpetrators who exploit their vulnerabilities. It is absolutely disheartening and painful to see that the lives of these girls are just wasted as if they never mattered. These girls could have grown up to become doctors, teachers, and would have realised their dreams and aspirations. This is also going to have repercussions on minds of other Dalit young girls," she said.

Crimes against Dalit community on the rise

The government data suggests how violence against Dalit women in India is on rise. According to the latest NCRB report, atrocities or crimes against Scheduled Castes have increased by 1.2 per cent in 2021 with Uttar Pradesh reporting the largest share of such crimes in India -- 25.82 per cent.

In India, a total of 31,677 rape cases have been reported in 2021. Of this, over 12 per cent (3,870) cases of 'Rape against SC women' were reported. Of this, 1,285 rape cases among children belonging to the SC communities were reported.

Simply put, cases of sexual assault against scheduled castes account for 12.22 per cent of the total cases reported in the country and every third such rape is of a minor girl.

A collection of essays titled Voice against Caste Impunity: Narratives of Dalit women, that Sylvia Karpagam, a Bengaluru-based public health expert has collated, discusses how the mindset among the dominant castes make them feel they can get away with anything, whether be it rape, the investigation that follows.

"Atrocities, sexual assault and violence against Dalit and Adivasi communities cannot be seen as isolated incidents but part of a larger process of structural violence and impunity. This incident in UP is an expected outcome under the Bisht [Ajay Bisht, actual name of Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath] regime which is openly casteist and communal," Sylvia Karpagam, public health expert based in Bengaluru, explained to Gaon Connection.

"For every such incident that is reported there would be thousands of cases of molestation, harassment, assault, stalking and abuse. This daily assault on people's sense of security, self esteem and mental health can have long term consequences. All human rights groups have to come forward to condemn and challenge the UP regime of casteism and communalism," she added.

The six accused who have been arrested in the Lakhimpur Kheri gangrape incident are charged under sections of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO), 2012 and one of the accused has been nabbed following an encounter in which he was shot at in the leg. The police identified the six accused as Chotu, Junaid, Suhail, Hafizul Rehman, Karimuddin and Arif.

However, the family of the dead minor girls is awaiting justice as they reportedly demand capital punishment for the accused.

Uttar Pradesh Deputy Chief Minister Brajesh Pathak has assured to take strict action against the accused. "The government will take such an action that the souls of their coming generations will also shiver. Justice will be given," he was quoted as saying in a news report.

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