The teenager’s family alleged she was raped and killed, Police state it is a case of suicide, and a false narrative is being created & media, politicians ignore it all
One of the most important Dalit rights moment has been unfolding in the national capital over the past few weeks. Yet it seems to have been swept under the carpet, even ignored by the massive press corps working out of the capital, and as days go by threatens to be forgotten quickly.
On October 4, a 17-year-old Dalit girl was found dead, hanging from the roof of a room she lived in at the home where she worked as a houshelp. According to her family, she was allegedly raped and killed. However, the Police state it is a case of siocice, there is no foul play, and a false narrative is being created. The two points are scarily similar to the Hathras horror. However, the big difference here is the stunning silence, from the mainstream media, local and national politicians, who live and work in the city. Not a murmur even as her family also alleges that the victim was cremated hastily by the Police. The Delhi Police, in its part has firmly stated that the teen committed suicide and was cremated by her own family. This is the media statement issued by Delhi Police over twitter:
However, no one seems to be asking, why the teenager from Bihar, working as a househelp had committed suicide in the first place. It is obvious that she is not a popular upper caste film star whose death would warrant multiple news reports, live TV telecasts and public mobilisation demanding justice. All that has not even helped the poor Hathras family yet. However, this teenaged migrant worker may just be another forgotten statistic, her family alleges that when they demanded a First Information Report (FIR) be registered, they were detained and thrashed. A reporter who did go to investigate was also beaten up. Delhi Police has firmly denied both allegations.
And if it was not for an alert group of Delhi University Student unions, the unnatural death of this Dalit teenager, in the National Capital Delhi would still have been missed by everyone. After the 17-year-old Dalit girl was found dead in the Model Town area of North Delhi, none of the political leaders who had made a beeline for over a month to visit Hathras in Uttar Pradesh, which reported a similar crime, seem to have noticed either. Not even the Aam Aadmi Party, currently running the Delhi Government.
The Delhi Police, however, is under the Union Home Minister Amit Shah, whose office, and official house is also in Delhi. The National Commission for Women is also in Delhi. That there is no word from Smriti Z Irani who is the Union Cabinet Minister for Women & Child Development, is not surprising, as she has not yet commented on the Hathras rape and murder of a Dalit teenager, or the multiple cases of rape and harrasement reported from Uttar Pradesh, and other parts of the country. In fact, all Members of Parliament representing Delhi are from the Bharatiya Janata Party, none of them have made a statement on the Model Town victim.
The family alleged that the teen was “brutally raped to death” in the house where she has been working as a maid for around 10 days, this was only reported by the portal Asian Speaks. According to the portal, the victim hails from Bihar had been employed at the Model Town house where she reportedly faced severe mental and physcal torture The portal reported that the young girl was forced to sleep in the driver’s room and when she tried to inform her relatives, she was restrained and threatened by the employer’s wife.
It added that the victim’s aunt had received a phone call from the girl just one hour before she was allegedly fatally attacked. It was reported that the teen was allegedly ‘raped and was found hanged to death in the drivers room’. The Police has ruled out murder, and said the post mortem report by the team of doctors at safdarjung said cause of death is “asphyxia, as a result of ante mortem hanging” and appears to be “suicicdal in nature”. The police statement does not mention if the post mortem report ruled out rape.
Then the big question still remains: Why did a 17-year-old Dalit girl working as a housemaid hang herself?
The family has also alleged that they were not allowed to see her at first, but they persevered and managed to see the dead body of their child finally on October 8, for a brief while. The Police “allowed the family to briefly view the body after the postmortem” but then the family has alleged that the cops “forcefully took it away and cremated it” without their consent. According to them the teenager was cremated “in the presence of approximately 300 police officials”.
The Delhi Police has stated that it was the victim’s family who “cremated her at the Wazirpur cremation ground” and added that “no foul play has come to notice so far in the investigation.” On October 16, the victim’s family staged a protest at the Model Town police station. They were reportetly joined by student union members, the police is said to have taken into custody, around 10 people including the Caravan reporter and the relatives of the Dalit girl, and allegedly thrashed them up. The Police state that the group was flooding Covid-19 protocol, and trying to change the “narrative” of the case. This was the story that the Caravan reporter was following up, when he too was beaten up on Friday.
Those allegedly beaten by the police include five women (two relatives of the Dalit girl, and three activists) and five men, who were activists of BSCEM and DSU and as well the reporter from Caravan. As journalist Ahan Penkar, the Caravan staffer, alleged that he was kicked & slapped by Delhi Police ACP Ajay Kumar inside the Model Town station premises, in North Delhi.
Political Editor Hartosh Singh Bal had confirmed that “the reporter wasn’t the only person to be beaten up by Ajay Kumar at the site. Two other persons were also attacked, while a constable and two inspectors watched. “One of them was a Sikh. The ACP took off his turban and beat him. He stepped on the neck of the second man.”
Acording to the only news report filed, the the Dalit teenagers family members will continuing seeking an FIR and to ensure action is taken against the Delhi Police personnel.
The Delhi University Student organisations issued this joint statement:
A 17 year old Dalit girl from Rajpura GurhMandi who was working as a domestic worker at a house in Model Town was found dead in the employer’s house on October 4th. The family has alleged rape and murder of the victim by the employer’s son and driver. The family has stated that the girl attempted speaking to her aunt just hours before her death only to be interrupted by the landlady. Later, the family was called and after a heated exchange with the police, were briefly allowed to see the body of the girl who was found hanging from the ceiling of the drivers room.
The body was later whisked away without disclosure of any details about the whereabouts of the body. It was finally on October 8th, that the police allowed the family to briefly view the body after the postmortem and forcefully took it away and cremated it without the consent of the family and in the presence of approximately 300 police officials. This was done despite repeated requests by the family to let them take the body to their house for a short duration of time.
Family members of the victim, including women, were subjected to extreme physical torture by male police personnel, while in police custody for a duration of 8 hours. This had occurred when they reached the police station to enquire about the whereabouts of the body.
On the 16th of October, a protest was called outside Model Town Police Station demanding an immediate registration of FIR, fair and impartial investigation into the incident and action to be taken against police officials involved in the forceful cremation of the girl’s body and custodial torture of the family. At this protest gathering 10 people were detained, taken into police custody and brutally assaulted by the police personnel. The detainees include family members, student activists and a Caravan journalist. The Model Town police have now registered an FIR against the detained persons under the Epidemic Act.
The brazenness with which the Delhi police have attempted to cover up, destroy evidence and crush the protesting family into silence shows the extent of state impunity granted to the police and the accused, when they belong to the affluent class or upper caste sections. Ever since the Hathras gangrape case effected massive outrage across the country, several reports of sexual violence and murder of women, especially from Dalit and marginalized sections, have surfaced along with news of Hathras style forceful cremations, procedural lapses, destruction of evidence and cover-ups.
While we recognise that these are not isolated incidents and are located in the larger social reality shaped and defined by caste, patriarchy and class based relations and institutions, it is imperative to recognise the blatant state sanction involved in shielding perpetrators that only serves to embolden such caste based sexual violence.
We have seen in the case of Hathras rape victim how from the local police, medical examiners, district administration to government, the entire state apparatus was in cohorts to distort the statement of the victim and family violating all principles of fairness and justice. This model keeps getting replicated everyday along with rising cases of sexual violence and heavy repression of public outrage and protests by the heavy state machinery. We condemn the illegal cover up, destruction of evidence, forceful cremation and custodial violence and the attempt to criminalize peaceful protesters by the Model Town Police. We demand:
1) Immediate registration of FIR against the accused under relevant sections of IPC and SC ST Atrocities Act.
2) Independent and impartial investigation to be carried out into the case.
3) Immediate action to be taken against police personnel involved in committing procedural lapses and forceful cremation of the victim’s body.
4) Action to be taken against police personnel who were involved in the custodial violence of the family members, student activists and a journalist.
5) Withdraw the FIR filed against family members, students and journalist for peacefully protesting.