Caste Crimes

In wake of Badaun rape and murders, politicians and petitioners swarm UP village

Katara village gets its first helipad as Mayawati descends from the sky. But the police have not made any progress in the case.

The policemen, as usual, had arrived late. By the time they assembled outside the hut in Katara village in Uttar Pradesh’s Badaun district, their charge, Samajwadi Party MP Dharmendra Yadav, was already running out of conversation inside.

Of course, it was clear to everyone around that Yadav was late too. Even though two girls had been raped, murdered, and hanged from a tree in Katara village, Yadav had taken five whole days to appear at the site of the outrage. It was only after a highly disturbing image of the crime went viral on social media that the SP finally began to display some urgency. Chief minister Akhilesh Yadav fired his chief secretary, ordered an inquiry by the Central Bureau of Investigation and sent Dharmendra Yadav to placate the villagers.

Unsurprisingly, Dharmendra Yadav's offer to compensate the girls' families for their loss met with no enthusiasm. The families wanted justice, not money, they said. In fact, what they really wanted was to see the boys who had tortured their daughters to death to be hanged from the very same mango tree. It was around here that Yadav had found his conversational skills faltering and left.

As the day grew warmer, things were starting to look up. Katara received its first helipad (freshly built and paid for, on a farmer's languishing mint crop), and then witnessed the glorious sight of Dalit leader Mayawati alighting from her chopper, followed by the efficient-in-blue Bahujan Voluntary Force. It was a rare event. Behenji rarely met with the media or visited sites of unrest during her tenure as UP chief minister, but the thorough trouncing in the recent election appeared to have transformed her into a gentler soul.

In a record 20 minutes spent with the victim's families (Congress leader Rahul Gandhi met them for ten minutes on Saturday, while Yadav barely lingered), Mayawati managed to convince the girl's parents to accept her “personal  compensation” of Rs 5 lakh each, and assured them that the police would harass them no further. At a press conference held on a dais erected specially for her, under the mango trees, the BSP leader then warned the UP police not to kowtow to the demands of their upper-caste masters. She also promised Katara that while she had ensured a Central Bureau of Investigation inquiry into the matter, she would not hesitate to leave Delhi or Lucknow and sit on a dharna with them if they did not receive justice.

Following this bombastic declaration and Mayawati's exit into the sky,  the rest of the day felt anti-climactic. Former Lok Sabha speaker Meira Kumar paid her condolences to the family, choosing to speak with the women of the family in a separate room, and not to address the villagers at all. Later in the day, following reports that the practice of open defecation made women vulnerable to sexual violence, the NGO Sulabh promised the villagers of Katara a toilet in every home.

Yet, there was no relief in sight. News reports claimed that two of the boys had confessed to rape and murder, but the SSP of Badaun said no such statement had been recorded yet. Everyone from Rahul Gandhi to Mayawati had assured the villagers that the CBI would get to the root of the matter, but the CBI claimed to have received no official notice on the case as of Sunday night.

Meanwhile more and more people from neighbouring villages have begun to assemble in Katara hoping that their own litany of grievances – sons and daughters who have gone missing and found dead near Yadav homes – would be heard under the mango tree. "Do you think Modi will come tomorrow? " Vidyavati, a 78-year-old woman asked her grandson as people began to clear out of the orchard. Abhinav had just arrived from Moradabad, drawn home as soon as he recognised his neighbourhood in that terrible photograph he saw on a friend's Facebook wall. "Of course he will," the young man said. "He has to.”
We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content  BY 

As India turns 70, London School of Economics asks some provocative questions

Is India ready to become a global superpower?

Meaningful changes have always been driven by the right, but inconvenient questions. As India completes 70 years of its sovereign journey, we could do two things – celebrate, pay our token tributes and move on, or take the time to reflect and assess if our course needs correction. The ‘India @ 70: LSE India Summit’, the annual flagship summit of the LSE (London School of Economics) South Asia Centre, is posing some fundamental but complex questions that define our future direction as a nation. Through an honest debate – built on new research, applied knowledge and ground realities – with an eclectic mix of thought leaders and industry stalwarts, this summit hopes to create a thought-provoking discourse.

From how relevant (or irrelevant) is our constitutional framework, to how we can beat the global one-upmanship games, from how sincere are business houses in their social responsibility endeavours to why water is so crucial to our very existence as a strong nation, these are some crucial questions that the event will throw up and face head-on, even as it commemorates the 70th anniversary of India’s independence.

Is it time to re-look at constitution and citizenship in India?

The Constitution of India is fundamental to the country’s identity as a democratic power. But notwithstanding its historical authority, is it perhaps time to examine its relevance? The Constitution was drafted at a time when independent India was still a young entity. So granting overwhelming powers to the government may have helped during the early years. But in the current times, they may prove to be more discriminatory than egalitarian. Our constitution borrowed laws from other countries and continues to retain them, while the origin countries have updated them since then. So, do we need a complete overhaul of the constitution? An expert panel led by Dr Mukulika Banerjee of LSE, including political and economic commentator S Gurumurthy, Madhav Khosla of Columbia University, Niraja Gopal Jayal of JNU, Chintan Chandrachud the author of the book Balanced Constitutionalism and sociologist, legal researcher and Director of Council for Social Development Kalpana Kannabiran will seek answers to this.

Is CSR simply forced philanthropy?

While India pioneered the mandatory minimum CSR spend, has it succeeded in driving impact? Corporate social responsibility has many dynamics at play. Are CSR initiatives mere tokenism for compliance? Despite government guidelines and directives, are CSR activities well-thought out initiatives, which are monitored and measured for impact? The CSR stipulations have also spawned the proliferation of ambiguous NGOs. The session, ‘Does forced philanthropy work – CSR in India?” will raise these questions of intent, ethics and integrity. It will be moderated by Professor Harry Barkema and have industry veterans such as Mukund Rajan (Chairman, Tata Council for Community Initiatives), Onkar S Kanwar (Chairman and CEO, Apollo Tyres), Anu Aga (former Chairman, Thermax) and Rahul Bajaj (Chairman, Bajaj Group) on the panel.

Can India punch above its weight to be considered on par with other super-powers?

At 70, can India mobilize its strengths and galvanize into the role of a serious power player on the global stage? The question is related to the whole new perception of India as a dominant power in South Asia rather than as a Third World country, enabled by our foreign policies, defense strategies and a buoyant economy. The country’s status abroad is key in its emergence as a heavyweight but the foreign service officers’ cadre no longer draws top talent. Is India equipped right for its aspirations? The ‘India Abroad: From Third World to Regional Power’ panel will explore India’s foreign policy with Ashley Tellis, Meera Shankar (Former Foreign Secretary), Kanwal Sibal (Former Foreign Secretary), Jayant Prasad and Rakesh Sood.

Are we under-estimating how critical water is in India’s race ahead?

At no other time has water as a natural resource assumed such a big significance. Studies estimate that by 2025 the country will become ‘water–stressed’. While water has been the bone of contention between states and controlling access to water, a source for political power, has water security received the due attention in economic policies and development plans? Relevant to the central issue of water security is also the issue of ‘virtual water’. Virtual water corresponds to the water content (used) in goods and services, bulk of which is in food grains. Through food grain exports, India is a large virtual net exporter of water. In 2014-15, just through export of rice, India exported 10 trillion litres of virtual water. With India’s water security looking grim, are we making the right economic choices? Acclaimed author and academic from the Institute of Economic Growth, Delhi, Amita Bavisar will moderate the session ‘Does India need virtual water?’

Delve into this rich confluence of ideas and more at the ‘India @ 70: LSE India Summit’, presented by Apollo Tyres in association with the British Council and organized by Teamworks Arts during March 29-31, 2017 at the India Habitat Centre, New Delhi. To catch ‘India @ 70’ live online, register here.

At the venue, you could also visit the Partition Museum. Dedicated to the memory of one of the most conflict-ridden chapters in our country’s history, the museum will exhibit a unique archive of rare photographs, letters, press reports and audio recordings from The Partition Museum, Amritsar.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Teamwork Arts and not by the Scroll editorial team.