Former National Commission of Women chairperson Mohini Giri along with former members Padma Seth and Syeda Hamed on Wednesday criticised the functioning of the panel in connection with the brutal gangrape and murder of a 19-year-old Dalit woman in Hathras district of Uttar Pradesh.
“Today what we are seeing is the slow death of women’s commissions, bodies which were created by hard work of mentors like Promila Dandvate, Vimla Farooqui, Susheela Gopalan,Geeta Mukerjee, Margret Alva, Vina Mazumdar, Renuka Chowdhary and many others,” a statement by the former members said. “Recent role or non-role of NCW and SWC [state women commission] in the heinous Hathras incident proves the point.”
The statement was issued on behalf of Guild For Service, War Widows Association, Women’s Initiative for Peace in South Asia, Muslim Women’s Forum, Indian Council of Management and Future, Indian Trust for Innovation and Social Change.
Giri, Seth and Hamed likened the Hathras incident to the rape of a 23-year-old physiotherapist in 2012, dubbed Nirbhaya. “What did the chairpersons of NCW do when the girl child was gangraped and killed (like Nirbhaya in 2010) in what is being globally described as the worst incident in recent history of VAW [Violence Against Women],” they questioned.
The statement also pointed out that Bharatiya Janata Party’s Information Technology cell chief Amit Malviya had shared a video of the Hathras victim on Twitter and criticised the women’s panel response to the same. The National Commission for Women chairperson Rekha Sharma had said Malviya’s social media post was “illegal and unfortunate”, while State Women’s Commission’s called it “definitely objectionable”.
Under Section 228A of the Indian Penal Code, it is illegal to reveal the identity of a person who has been sexual assaulted. On Tuesday, the women’s commission had issued notices to Malviya, actor Swara Bhasker and Congress leader Digivijaya Singh for allegedly revealing the woman’s identity. Malviya had tweeted the video of the woman in an attempt to claim she had not been raped.
“Their effete statements hang limp in the vitiated air of power corridors,” the former members said. “While people from political parties and civil society groups went to condole and offer solidarity to the bereaved family, these apex bodies for women with statutory powers spoke measured words from the comfort of their official houses.”
The statement also highlighted the latest figures of the National Crime Records Bureau. “In India, every 30 hours a woman is gangraped and murdered,” it said. “Every two hours there is attempted or actual rape. Every six minutes there is assault with rape intent. This is India at the end of the second decade of the 21st century. Statutory bodies for women maintain studied silence!”
Hathras rape case
On September 14, four upper-caste Thakur men had tortured and raped the Dalit woman. She died on September 29, a day after being moved to the Safdarjung Hospital in Delhi. She had suffered multiple fractures and other serious injuries, and was left paralysed. The four men have been arrested. However, the woman was hastily cremated by police against her family’s consent, while they had been locked indoors. This has led to outrage and protests across the country.
The Uttar Pradesh administration has consistently denied that the woman was raped, based on a report from the forensic lab that had said there were no traces of sperm in samples taken from her. However, the chief medical officer at Jawaharlal Nehru Medical College – where the woman was admitted – said the forensic lab’s report “holds no value” as it relied on samples taken 11 days after the crime was committed. Experts have also pointed out that since the samples for the test were collected many days after the crime was committed, sperm would not be present. The autopsy report of the woman had showed that she was strangled and suffered a cervical spine injury. The final diagnosis did not mention rape, but had pointed out that there were tears in her genitalia and there had been “use of force”.
Amid mounting pressure and protests, Adityanath on October 3 recommended a Central Bureau of Investigation-monintered inquiry in the case. The matter is being heard by the Supreme Court, which asked the Uttar Pradesh government on Tuesday to file an affidavit on how the witnesses in the case are being protected.