September 26, 2021

Uttar Pradesh: Women's Security—Claims and Truths

Madhu Garg

IN the meeting of the BJP women's wing held on September 7, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister, Yogi Adityanath made tall claims about women's security. According to him, before he came to power, girls could not go to school; it was unsafe to walk on the road. And after his arrival, women can go out of the house fearlessly. Yogi Adityanath claims that whatever good is happening for women is because of him and Modi.

In 2022, the Uttar Pradesh assembly elections are scheduled and thus, such false claims are a ploy to whitewash the anti-people, anti-women activities during Yogi's tenure. For example, in the second wave of Corona, the death toll was many times more than the government's estimates and the condition of UP was the worst in the country. And yet, prime minister Modi, said in a meeting in Varanasi that Yogi did a great job in managing the pandemic. Efforts are being made to establish a narrative that prior to 2017 there was no development, no employment, no health care and no women’s safety in Uttar Pradesh. 

Although the BJP government has obfuscated the reports of NCRB, the available data of 2019 reveals that in cases involving violence against women, Uttar Pradesh was the highest in the country. Despite this, Yogi claims that no culprit will be spared and he formed the so-called "Anti Romeo Squads" and "Operation Darachar" to curb rising crimes against women. However, such vigilante ideas only wreaked further havoc in the state and young couples have been harassed.

Crimes against women in Uttar Pradesh are determined by their 'caste' and 'religion' or by the political affiliation of the offender. To save BJP's Kuldeep Singh Sagar of Unnao, the BJP government left no stone unturned. The UP police dragged their feet in arresting Kuldeep Singh Sagar even after the High Court order. Another BJP legislator, Chinmayanand, a former union minister of state for home in the BJP government, was accused of sexual harassment by a student studying in a college he owns. The Yogi government once again did all it could to shield him. While the accused Chinmayanand was resting in the AC room of a big hospital in Lucknow, the family of the victim continued to receive threats and had to take shelter in another city. The victim withdrew her complaint and the accused Chinmayanand was acquitted despite the lurid video pertaining to the crime going viral.

The case of rape and murder of a dalit girl in Hathras last year underscored the appalling situation of dalits in the state. To shield the accused—a Thakur—the Yogi government with the help of the administration harassed the victim’s family. From threatening them to inhumanly cremating the victim’s body in the dead of night, without her family’s consent raised many questions.

Initially, the administration claimed that there was no rape. In the victim's village, only 19 houses belonged to people from the Valmiki community who were threatened by the administration, in the presence of the police. The Thakurs held a kangaroo court and even threatened to teach the dalits a lesson. These few incidents are testimony to how influential people are saved in Yogi Sarkar.

Many rape victims in the state committed suicide due to non-registration of complaints in the police station. The women help desks in police stations are ineffective and the police are not sensitive with the victims; the Domestic Violence Act has no meaning as in dowry killings, Uttar Pradesh is amongst the worst states in India.

All the institutions created by the previous governments for women's safety and empowerment have been weakened or abolished by the Yogi government. The 1090 Mahila Helpline is moribund and the Mahila Samakhya which used to work for women's education and empowerment has been abolished. Salaries of women working in 181 women helplines were withheld, while 351 have been fired.

'Matrishakti', for women's safety was launched during Navratri as a 180-day campaign. However, instead of taking concrete steps, it was a mere PR endeavour to improve the image of the Yogi government.

The state women commission is just a puppet of the government in power in UP. They have not intervened even in the most horrific incidents of female violence.

When AIDWA and other organisations demonstrate against the ever-increasing violence against women, cases are filed against them. For Yogi Adityanath’s government, a woman is a mute 'goddess', who is insincerely ritually garlanded for image building activities.