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She was a Dalit child from Boolgarhi Village in Hathras, she could have been mine or yours.


‘This is not the India of My Birth’

 The usual practice today is Muslims write on Muslim issues, Dalits on Dalit issues, each on his/her own. I come from a generation which did not practise this norm. In post partition India Jagan Nath Azad wrote on Miladun Nabi and Hasrat Mohani wrote on Holi.

I am a believing and practising Muslim woman who writes on issues regardless of their religious context. As Member National Commission for Women, with my Chairperson Mohini Girl and Member Padma Seth, I combed the country wherever there was crime against women, regardless of caste or religion. Village Sudaka in Haryana, Village Haria ki Garhi in UP, Village Kusheshwar Asthan in Bihar, Village Reshampura in MP, Village Mahoba in UP. Dowry death, gang rape, child prostitution, even sati, all this at the end of 20th century.

This was the India we criss crossed. With only one identity I rushed to douse the fires and bully the cops to nab the culprits. At police chowkis we were called ‘ghar phodu mahilayein’ The only identity I carried in all these missions was my gender.

Hathras has happened in 21 Century India.

A nineteen year old, a Dalit, a child, went with her mother and brother in the field to cut fodder. Then what happened is beyond description. Dragged into the field by brutes masquerading as humans, spine smashed, tongue slashed, body ravaged. All within one hour of being separated from her mother.

Writhing in agony for 14 days, the 19 year old fought to remain alive. Was there a Sub Centre Boomgarhi village of Hathras? How far was the District hospital? What about the next district, Aligarh’s Jawaharlal Nehru Medical College? Which health care facility took in a child of the lowest samaj living in the midst of caste Hindus? As we have witnessed in hundreds of cases, for the suvaranas a Dalit girl’s body is fair game.

For fifteen days she hung between life and death. Minuscule reporting by big media. Only after the end came in Delhi’s Safdarjung hospital, was the lid blown off.

Where was the state? Busy covering tracks of the brutes who ripped her apart? And the police? Shielding the depraved because ‘boys will be boys’. It was the same police however which swung into action at the dead of night when they threw her body in their jeep and headed for the cremation ground.

The world watched with horror two women, mother and aunt, throw themselves on the bonnet of the jeep to prevent them from taking away her dead body. And the mother prostrating herself on the road pleading… pleading before the impervious police. Begging to take the dead child inside the home so they could apply haldi and pray until daybreak. ‘Unreasonable’ said the police. What if Dalit families converge and begin asking uncomfortable questions?

Is Hathras happening in Gandhi’s country?

Gandhi Jayanti was celebrated across the country two days ago. UP Chief Minister and his Mantris offered prayers before grim statues of the man who was killed by 3 bullets taken from their arsenal. Recall two years ago in Aligarh, the district from which Hathras was carved out, Hindu Mahasabha member Pooja Shakun Pandey with other members, fired three bullets in the chest of Gandhi Putla. From nearby Ballia, Surendra Singh MP (BJP) from Ballia said. ‘This teaches us that all parents should teach their daughters good sanskars, only that will make our country beautiful’.

Today there is only one question. How much longer can ‘we the people’ watch this savagery and look the other way? Can we stay home, mull over the incident, then forget it when other incidents and events take hold of our minds?

‘Last rites were performed’ declared the police. Last rites for a Dalit child by a rapacious police is bull. UP police denied rape; before TV cameras AGP Prashant Kumar spoke ’medical examination suggests no rape’. The same police, SP of Chandpa Kshetra, received a delegation from Rashtriya Swaran Parishad who declared this a Dalit ploy to frame innocent boys. The fact that the child was dead was not discussed; minor details such as death were dismissed as inconsequential!

She was a Dalit child from Boolgarhi Village in Hathras, she could have been mine or yours.

And where is GOI when UP reaches the top slot on the index of crimes against women? Hathras is followed by Balrampur and Azamgarh, all within a week. Teenager after teenager. The PM lifts the phone to speak to the UP CM. Media reports words of a Thakur from Hathras ‘’She has ruined our village’s name… brought such disrepute. Who will marry their daughters into this village now?’

Phrases like “Ye log to aisey hee hain; zara si baat par hulla karte hain’ appear on social media. ‘Ye Log’ an epithet for Muslims as it is for Dalits. We have heard it before. District officials with masks appear and sing paeans to the powers, protect the powerful, damn the weak. A Tabrez Ansari, an Akhlaq Ahmed a Rakbar Khan, an Afrazul Islam. All these vermin who disturb the sarkari universe.

This is not the country for which Gandhi lived and died. This is not the country for which Maulana Azad stood on the steps of Jama Masjid and urged terrified Muslims to shed their insecurities and join the project of building New India. This is not the India where Kaifi Azmi could have written Doosra Banwaas and not be lynched by the Hindu Sena. This is not the land in which Mohinder Singh Bedi ‘Seher’ could recite ‘Sirf Muslim ke Mohammad pe ijaara to nahin’ to a thundering applause.

This is not the India of my birth seven decades ago in Kashmir.

Hathras is the moment to recall the lines of Rahi Masoom Raza

Ye chiragh jaisey lamhe kahin raegaan na jaaein
Koi Khwaab dekh dalo koi Inquilab laao

May these flaming moments not go to waste
Witness a dream, bring in a revolution

Syeda Hameed is a writer and founder Chairperson Muslim Women’s Forum


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