Is the opposition Congress that lost its ground in the largest state of the country, Uttar Pradesh, steadily trying to build a base and strengthen its party there through the Hathras incident which came as a big occasion to intervene?
A young dalit woman was ganged raped and fatally assaulted by four persons on September 14. She died two weeks later in a hospital in Delhi. The incident brought back disturbing memories of the Nirbhaya gang rape in Delhi. Initial reports said the Hathras woman was gang raped by four men, her tongue was cut off and her spinal cord broken. However, the forensic report showed she was not sexually assaulted and eventually died of a heart attack. The report also found no trace of sperm on the victim’s body.
Whether we choose to believe the forensic report or not, whether this is a case of rape or gang rape, or an attempt to murder, is beside the point. The victim was brutalized in a manner most horrific and the perpetrators deserve exemplary punishment. The fact that as a Dalit and a woman she was doubly disadvantaged in a society that marginalizes both cannot also be disputed. The incident should have shaken our collective conscience, there should have been call for a quick and fair investigation, the role of the local police and the administration should have been brought under the scanner, and the aggrieved family should have been given the best possible legal and financial support. Instead, at mid-night the UP police forcibly set her body on fire, even as the family begged for one last look at their departed daughter!
Then hell broke loose. Reporters descended, politicians flocked, section 144 of CrPC was imposed, Rahul Gandhi shoved policemen 160 kms away from Hathras and fell down on the ground as cops pushed him back. And now, Trinamool Congress Rajya Sabha member Derek O’ Brien did a repeat. No one should deny that this TMC MP has the right to protest. But one can ask him why in his own state West Bengal, law and order is in a shambles, why every other day supporters of rival political parties are either shot, stabbed or found hanging from trees. Or why a women is shot in the head allegedly by members of O’Brien’s party when they couldn’t find her husband, who is a local BJP worker.
However, as far as Congress is concerned, the newfound organisational strength of the party was reflected in the strong protests launched by the Congress from Delhi to Hathras and across districts of the state. The century-old party alleged that the Yogi government has been acting with vendetta against the poor and marginalised. People have decided to teach BJP a lesson in the 2022 assembly polls, it stated.
Now it’s very obvious that the entire exercise for the Congress is an attempt to gain the lost ground in UP. The Congress has been since long trying to build a base among Dalits and the Brahmin upper caste. The party leaders believe that if a section of Dalits and Brahmins could be brought back to the party fold, minorities, too, will be drawn back, thus giving it a strong vote base in the state.
The way Rahul Gandhi and his sister Priyanka led the movement, it seems that the party is desperately trying to restore its base in the state. Both were stopped and briefly taken into custody by UP police in Greater Noida while they were traveling to Hathras on Thursday. Now they again went to Harthras on Saturday to meet the family of the victim. Political observers feel that the Congress is utterly playing “politics” by exploiting the issue and Rahul’s second attempt to go to Hathras is purely for “politics and not for justice to the victim.”
No one can deny Rahul Gandhi, as a prominent Opposition leader, from making Hathras a political issue but one can ask him why he doesn’t pay a similar visit to Rajasthan, a state his own party rules, where two minor sisters, who had gone missing, were gang-raped, recently.
Besides the Congress politicians, now every non-BJP parties and media persons are trying to exploit the incident. The entire episode at Hathras is fast turning into “Peepli Live,” a satirical movie of 2012 that showed how the ‘victim’ from the village’ is just a tool for vote-seeking political parties to further their own agendas. Unfortunately, same thing is being repeated in Hathras in UP! When this politics on Hathras will stop?
– M Charulata