Hathras: UP is on the wrong track, again

There is now a growing opinion — including among some in the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) — that the Uttar Pradesh (UP) government has handled the Hathras case poorly. This could be due to political patronage to members of a caste group deemed loyal; it could be due to administrative incompetence; it could be due to the patriarchal mindset that governs both social and institutional attitudes towards women; it could be due to the prejudice with which Dalits are viewed in this country; or it could be due to all these factors.

What the UP government needed to do was ensure correctives — both in the immediate context to hold perpetrators as well as administrative officials in Hathras accountable and in the medium-term by instituting structural reforms in the criminal justice system and its intersection with political power.

Instead, it has decided to order a probe into an “international” conspiracy and plot to defame the Yogi Adityanath government and foment caste violence. The UP police has also filed 19 FIRs against both named and unnamed individuals on charges ranging from sedition to promoting enmity between castes and communities. This is outrageous. The outcry against the injustice in Hathras was because citizens were shaken and angry and wanted action. Not only did the UP government fail in its task of protecting the life, liberty and dignity of a young Dalit woman, it first sought to cover up the incident and is now using the controversy to attack critics and construct conspiracy theories, invoking the proverbial foreign hand. The state should stop looking outside, and look within its own administration. That is where the fault lies.

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