KOLKATA: British MP Apsana Begum along with over 30 feminist groups and all Dalit organizations in the UK, Ambedkar International Missions from various parts of the world and other diaspora organizations have written to UN Human Rights Commissioner Michelle Bachelet on the Hathras incident. British MPs John McDonnell, Kim Johnson, Bell Ribeiro-Addy and Paula Barker are also signatories to the letter.
They have asked Bachelet to urge PM Narendra Modi to dismiss UP chief minister Yogi Adityanath and set up an international inquiry into the Hathras rape case as well as other crimes against women — particularly Dalits — since his government came to power.
According to the signatories, Hathras should not be seen as an isolated crime but as “part of a systematic attack on women and oppressed castes”. “Three other sexual assaults and deaths of women and girls took place in UP hardly 24 hours after the Hathras victim’s remains had been consigned to flames by the UP police. In Balrampur, a 22-year-old Dalit woman was raped and murdered. In Bhadohi, a 14-year-old Dalit girl was found dead, her face disfigured and head battered. Rape is suspected. In Azamgarh, an eight-year-old girl was raped,” the letter said.
London-based Bengali writer Amrit Wilson is part of South Asia Solidarity Group (SASG), which together with Caste Watch UK, initiated the letter. An activist on issues of race and gender in Britain and South Asian politics, Wilson was in Kolkata in February.
“This brings utter shame to India internationally. Those who care about women’s rights and Dalit rights all over the world are outraged by the horrors being enacted in Hathras by the Yogi government. Hence, this letter to the UN. Yogi must go but ultimately it is the Modi regime who must be held accountable,” Wilson told TOI from London on Saturday.
Adrija Dey, a post-doctoral research fellow at SOAS University of London and part of SOAS India Society, said the Hathras crime was not a case of gendered violence alone but also of caste.
On being asked why the letter specifically mentioned UP when rapes were taking place in other states, Dey pointed out that according to NCRB figures, UP had reported the highest number of atrocities against Dalits from 2016. “It was about 26%,” she said, adding, “Since Adityanath came to power, we have seen how he has tried to establish a Hindu supremacist government and the way Muslims and Dalits have had to bear the brunt of the violence propagated by the government. It is time we call out the violence and the complete impunity with which this government has been able to target people from minority backgrounds.”
London-based architect Sofia Karim, who initiated Turbine Bagh as a joint artists’ movement against fascism in India, is another signatory. She told TOI that there have been efforts in the UK for a while to raise awareness about the “terrifying reality of India today”. “News of the Hathras rape case is having a noticeable and profound impact on anyone who hears about it. They are repulsed. It has also brought to attention issues of caste oppression which many were not aware of. India’s international image is being eroded,” Karim said.