NEW DELHI—A top official of the United Nations posted in India has expressed serious concern over the rape and murder of Dalits girls in Hathras and Balrampur in Uttar Pradesh.
In a statement, UN Resident Coordinator in India, Renata Lok-Dessallien said that “the UN in India is profoundly saddened and concerned at the continuing cases of sexual violence against women and girls in India”. However, India’s Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) has called the UN official’s comments as “unwarranted” and “unnecessary”.
She said that “the recent cases of alleged rape and murder in Hathras and Balarampur are another reminder that despite the impressive progress made on a number of social indicators, women and girls from disadvantaged social groups face additional vulnerabilities and are at greater risk of gender-based violence”.
Praising the steps taken by the Government of India “to strengthen safety measures for women and girls”, she said, “It is essential that authorities ensure that the perpetrators are brought to justice speedily, and that families be empowered to seek timely justice, social support, counselling, healthcare and rehabilitation. Entrenched social norms and behaviour of men and boys that lead to gender-based violence must be addressed”.
While Prime Minister Narendra Modi has not made any statement so far on the shocking incident of gangrape of Hathras Dalit girl, the UN official said, “The UN stands committed to providing continued support to the Government and civil society to address violence against women. As we fight the challenge of COVID-19 with the determination to build back better India, building respectful relationships devoid of prejudices and gender biases is a top priority”.
However, India’s Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) has described the comments of UN Resident Coordinator as “unwarranted” and “unnecessary”.
MEA’s spokesperson Anurag Srivastava said, “Some unwarranted comments have been made by the UN Resident Coordinator regarding some recent cases of violence against women”.
“UN Resident Coordinator in India should be aware that these cases have been taken extremely seriously by the government. Since the investigation process is still underway, any unnecessary comments by an external agency are best avoided. The Constitution guarantees equality to all citizens of India. As a democracy we have a time-tested record of providing justice to all sections of our society”, Srivastava said.
The 19-year-old Dalit girl from Bhoolgarhi village of Hathras district was allegedly gangraped by four youths belonging to upper caste on September 14 and she died in a hospital in Delhi on September 29. The body of the victim was cremated by the police itself in the absence of the family members though it was not the job of the police.
The incident of gangrape as also the police action in cremating the body in a hurried manner without the involvement of the family members came under strong criticism from leaders of opposition parties and social activists all over the country. Several political leaders including Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi of the Congress, Sanjay Singh of AAP and Jayant Chaudhary of RLD visited the family members of the deceased despite government putting up obstructions. Dalit leader and Bhim Army chief Chandrashekhar Azad also visited the family members. Journalists were also not allowed to meet the family members of the victim for several days.
Several political leaders and activists have also demanded resignation of Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath over the issue.
Police have booked several FIRs against political leaders, journalists and activists on charges of provoking caste-base and communal violence, including against Bhim Army chief and 400 of his supporters.
Police on Monday arrested four Muslims, saying they are members of Popular Front of India (PFI) who wanted to stoke caste-based violence in Hathras on the issue of the alleged gangrape incident. However, PFI secretary Anis Ahmed has denied the arrested persons are PFI members. However, he quested it was a crime in a democracy to meet the family members of a victim who was allegedly and subsequently. PFI leader said that Yogi government was trying to divert attention from the real issue by trying to give the incident a communal turn.