Police detain a woman during a protest in New Delhi on Sept. 30 following accusations of police forcibly cremating the body of a 19-year-old Dalit woman who was gang-raped by four men in Uttar Pradesh state. (Photo: AFP)
Church and political leaders in India have condemned the gang rape and murder of a Dalit woman in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh.
The 19-year-old died in national capital Delhi’s Safdarjung Hospital on Sept. 29 after she was raped in Hathras on Sept. 14. She was taken to Safdarjung on Sept. 28 from Aligarh Muslim University Medical College.
“There are no words that can describe this inhuman and barbaric act. We condemn the heinous crime committed on the poor Dalit girl and destroying her family. It’s a very unfortunate and sad thing to happen in a democratic country where a crime was committed weeks ago but the administration is still in the dark,” Bishop Gerald John Mathias of Lucknow told UCA News.
“Crimes and atrocities against Dalits and the downtrodden are nothing new in this part of the country. You take any newspaper or scan a television channel you can read about their plight, the injustice done towards Dalits.
“The main reason behind the rape cases in the state is the mentality of the people here who think of women as objects and treat women as second-class citizens. Unless that mentality changes, we will hear about crimes like these every other day.”
The bishop, who is based in the state capital of Uttar Pradesh, said people have no fear of the law and don’t hesitate to take the law into their hands, which is very dangerous for civil society.
According to media reports, four upper-caste men attacked the Dalit woman in Hathras. She suffered multiple fractures, paralysis and a deep gash on her tongue.
Based on the complaint filed by her parents, four men have been arrested and charged with gang rape and attempted murder.
Jesuit Father Cedric Prakash, a human rights activist, told UCA News that “the brutal gang rape and the subsequent murder of the Dalit woman in Hathras should make us all hang our heads in shame. This is a heinous crime which we condemn in no uncertain terms.”
“The perpetrators of this dastardly act should be brought to book and given the appropriate punishment. We are shocked that there is no outrage from the ruling governments both in the capital and in Uttar Pradesh. In recent months several women have been targeted and violently attacked in the state," he added.
“This and other recent attacks on women in India only give greater credibility to the report published by an international agency some time ago, entitled 'India is NO safe place for women'.”
Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra slammed the Uttar Pradesh government and said law and order in the state had deteriorated to a great extent.
“A Dalit girl who was brutalized in Hathras succumbed in Delhi hospital after struggling with life and death for two weeks. Incidents of rape in Hathras have rocked the state," he tweeted.
"There is nothing for the safety of women here. The criminals are committing crimes openly. The killers of this girl should be punished severely. Yogi Adityanath, chief minister of the state, you are answerable for the safety of women of UP."
Dalits, or untouchables, are the lowest caste within Hindu society. Huge numbers of Dalits have converted to Christianity and Islam over the decades, though in reality the religions offer limited protection from societal prejudice.
The word Dalit means "trampled upon" in Sanskrit and refers to all groups once considered untouchable and outside the four-tier Hindu caste system. Government data shows 201 million of India’s 1.2 billion people belong to this socially deprived community. Some 60 percent of India's 25 million Christians are of Dalit or tribal origin.