torsdag 8. oktober 2020

Hathras case: A fatal assault, a cremation and no goodbye

On the last day of September, India woke up to the disturbing news that authorities had forcibly cremated the body of a 19-year-old Dalit (formerly untouchable) woman who had alleged gang rape and died a day earlier. The news caused global outrage, leading to accusations that the young woman - who was allegedly raped by four upper-caste men and had fought for her life for two weeks - was treated as shabbily in death as in life.

The police in Hathras district in Uttar Pradesh state, where the attack took place, said the family had consented to her cremation. But her family and local journalists, who were present in the village when her funeral pyre was lit at around 2:30am, have contested the claim in interviews with the BBC. I travelled to Bhulgarhi village in Hathras district to find out what exactly happened on the night of 29 September. What emerges is a story of an unequal balance of power between the might of the state and some of its most disadvantaged citizens, officials' disregard for protocol, and their seeming unconcern for a grieving family trying to come to terms with a tragedy.