Has UP become India's rape central under Akhilesh Yadav?

Mulayam Singh Yadav's hometown Etawah is in news again. Yet another gruesome case of sexual violence has shot it back in the headlines. And this time the mother of a rape survivor was beaten up and stripped by a rape accused's father in broad daylight.

Piyasree Dasgupta May 30, 2014 15:18:18 IST
Has UP become India's rape central under Akhilesh Yadav?

Mulayam Singh Yadav's hometown Etawah is in news again. Yet another  gruesome case of sexual violence has shot it back in the headlines. And this time the mother of a rape survivor was beaten up and stripped by a rape accused's father in broad daylight.

According to a report on Zee News, Sunny, the son of Basant Lal Yadav, barged into the victim's house on May 11 and raped her. He was later caught by the police and ever since, the victim's family has been facing a backlash, which culminated in the attack on the mother.

This at a time when horrifying photos of two young dead Dalit girls in Badaun -- another UP district are making the rounds. The 14 and 15 year olds were found hanging from a tree, and medical examination confirms that the two were raped and then killed -- or should we say lynched, much like African Americans in the days of slavery. The fact that the girls were Dalit, and the accused are Yadavs, is no coincidence.  As Neha Dixit points out on India Ink, the empowerment of lower caste communities in the Hindi heartland has evoked a violent upper caste backlash, with Dalit women bearing the brunt of this rage.

Has UP become Indias rape central under Akhilesh Yadav

Protests against rape. AFP.

But the bigger story about Uttar Pradesh under the Akhilesh Yadav is summed by one little statistic: In 2013, the state registered 126 rape cases in one week alone. And the attitude of his government is also equally easy to summarise, this time in one quote from his father Mulayam Yadav who said just last month on rape: "Ladke, ladke hain. Galti ho jati hai (Boys are boys. They commit mistakes)."

This tolerant attitude likely explains why his hometown has acquired a particularly notorious reputation, and been the location of a string of gruesome incidents of rape and murder. If Uttar Pradesh is the Rape capital of India, then Etawah appears to be Ground Zero.

Here's a quick sampling of the tragedies that made headlines over the past year.

A 20-year-old college student was gangraped and then set on fire by the rapists in a bid to erase evidence of the crime. The girl sustained 80 percent burns and lived just long enough to record a police statement. According to media reports, the victim's and the rapists' families knew each other.

In May, 2013, an 18-year-old boy was beaten to death on the Etawah-Lucknow highway because he protested against eve teasers who were harassing his sister. India Today reported:

"Pankaj Yadav (18) entered into an argument with three youths after he objected to eve-teasing with his cousin sister near Bharthana Usrahar bus station last evening. During the dispute, the youths allegedly assaulted Pankaj with sticks, police said, adding, he was seriously injured in the attack."

There were allegations that the police refused to lodge an FIR when the victim was taken to the police station and the local authorities only acted after people put up a road blockade.

Two weeks before Pankaj died, a young girl filed a police complaint saying she was kidnapped from a busy market place in Etawah and gangraped in a moving car. However, police insisted that the girl was lying, claiming she was drunk and had gone with the men on her own accord.

Just five days prior to this allegation, the body of a 16-year-old was found in a well just 150 metres from her house. She was completely naked, with multiple injuries on her body, her private parts brutalised and her kurta tied around her neck, implying she was strangulated with it. The rest of her clothes were found lying on the ground a few feet away. Not much is known about the case except for the fact that a rape complaint was filed by her.

In February this year, a minor girl killed herself. In her suicide note she alleged that five young men who tried to rape her and shot a video of the assault, were threatening to make the video public. She couldn't bear the humiliation and consumed poison tablets. A report said:

"Reportedly, the group of boys in Jaswant Nagar area tried to rape her and captured the attempt in their mobile phones. When the girl protested, they tormented her by threatening to upload the video on internet. As of now, the alleged youths, who also happen to be minors have been booked under relevant charges. The girl's father has complained of rape, molestation and abetment to suicide."

When chief minister Akhilesh Yadav's hometown cannot protect its women, it is not difficult to imagine the fate of women  in other parts of Uttar Pradesh. A 17-year old rape victim in Pratapgarh recently had her tongue slashed by the accused's family.

And yet the state's ruling party remains unfazed. And with politicians like Samajwadi Party's Naresh Agarwal making rape sound like something as harmless like grocery shopping, there is little hope in the administration. Referring to the rape of the Etawah girl, Agarwal said at the time:

“In such a vast country, such things will happen. But what should be seen is how the Government will react to it,” Naresh Agarwal, a Samajwadi Party MP, said. “You are talking about isolated incidents. Pick up a paper and read, such incidents take place across every state in the country,” he added.

But no one is buying that kind of blase attitude any more, certainly not SP's political rivals who are asking for Akhilesh's head.

State BJP President told Economic Times, "This is sheer collapse of law and order. There is no fear among criminals and they have become so emboldened that after raping and killing girls they dare to hang then from a tree."

Blues singer Billy Holiday most famously sang,  "Southern trees bear strange fruit/ Blood on the leaves and blood at the root/ Black bodies swinging in the southern breeze/ Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees." The fruit on the trees in Uttar Pradesh are no less strange.

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