[This is an AHRC Statement]
Since India’s general election, Uttar Pradesh has witnessed sharp escalation of sexual violence and lawlessness. The rape of a session court judge in her official residence, guarded by the Provincial Armed Constabulary round the clock, highlights the extent of violence and lawlessness in the state.
There is no indication that the Uttar Pradesh state government, or the union government, is taking steps to stop this violence and enforce the law. It is as if law enforcement agencies have been sent on holiday since the elections. And yet, some of the rapes reported have been committed by the police officers inside police stations.
The gang rape and hanging of two minor girls in Badaun has been outrageous. The two cousins went missing, having left their home to answer nature’s call, a common practice in villages where poor households have no toilets. Their bodies were found hanging from a tree next morning.
Close on the heels of this incident was news of an attack on a rape survivor’s mother. The attacker is none other than the father of the accused, who apparently wished to pressurize the mother into withdrawing the case. Shortly thereafter, the state witnessed another gang rape of a dalit girl in Azamgah, i.e. the Lok Sabha constituency of the father of the Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister.
As if these cases were not enough, the state woke up one morning to news of the rape and attempted murder of a session’s judge. And, most recently, a 19-year-old woman, belonging to the Yadav community has been found hanging from a tree in Rajupur Milak village. According to observers, an average of ten rapes are being reported in Uttar Pradesh daily.
Meanwhile, politicians and leading police officers have been trivialising the gravity of the situation by misleading and misogynist statements. The Director General of Uttar Pradesh Police tried to mislead the probe into the Badaun gang rape and murder by asserting that the second victim had not been raped and also that the case might have a property dispute angle. Both claims were later found to be untrue. An autopsy confirmed rape; that the victims were cousins, rubbished the land angle.
Amidst such barbaric violence, the manner in which the state and union governments have abdicated their responsibilities to enforce the law and to stop such violence is striking. The direct responsibility for enforcing the law and stopping violence falls on the provincial government; law and order as per the Indian constitution is a state subject and the police works under its control.
It is the responsibility of the Chief Minister to ensure that the law is strictly enforced. The Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister has taken no effective steps to control the situation and enforce the law. He has failed to carry out his constitutional obligations.
It is also the responsibility of the DGP of Uttar Pradesh to ensure that the police force discharge their duties and curb violence immediately. However, the DGP and other high-ranking officers in Uttar Pradesh have failed to intervene. Rather, the police have either neglected or connived with the attackers, a major cause for continued violence.
Under these circumstances, it is the duty of the Uttar Pradesh Governor to exercise his constitutional duty to ensure the protection of all the citizens of the state, particularly the women and other vulnerable groups bearing the brunt of the attacks. Where the Chief Minister is failing to enforce the law it is the duty of the Governor to alert the Chief Minister about the dangerous situation that has arisen and to command the law enforcement agencies to handle the situation.
If the Chief Minister persists in allowing the situation to deteriorate, it is the duty of the Governor to use his constitutional mandate to apprise the President of India and the request the union to take appropriate measures. Whether the spike in violence has immediate political causes or not, the carnage and suffering in Uttar Pradesh must stop. And, where the state fails, and it has failed, the people of India must stand up.