The rape and murder of a 19-year-old Dalit woman by four upper caste men in Uttar Pradesh’s Hathras brought more than a thousand protesters to Delhi’s Jantar Mantar on October 2. The gathering, rich with posters and placards, raised slogans against caste-based sexual violence and the poor conduct of the state government under Chief Minister Ajay Bisht, popularly known as Yogi Adityanath. “Every time Yogi is scared, he puts the police ahead,” cried one protester. Actor Swara Bhaskar, activist-lawyer Prashant Bhushan, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, and Bhim Army chief Chandrashekhar Azad also joined the protest.
“It’s enough. It was suffocating. I could not sit at home,” said Shivangini, a young protester who thought calling Uttar Pradesh ‘jungle raj’ was an “insult to innocent animals”. Another protester, Anjali, pointed out that rapes against Dalit women in the state did not stop after the death of the Hathras woman. “It was getting worse,” she asserted, “We had to hit the streets, in spite of the pandemic.”
In one corner of Jantar Mantar, another protest brewed. Around 40 people came together under the banner of #JusticeForSSR, demanding a fair probe into the death of the late actor Sushant Singh Rajput. “Our protest is planned,” boasted one of them, “but their protest [for the Hathras victim] was finalised only after Rahul Gandhi said, ‘Come, beat me’ as he was marching to Hathras.”
As four Republic TV journalists swirled around this group, ignoring the Hathras protest, the other camp seemed convinced that #JusticeForSSR was put together to undermine their call against caste-based sexual violence. “If the people who are worried for SSR had been this worried about women, this protest would have been bigger, way bigger,” said Anjali.