ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Is Policing a Moral Question?

The actions of the police in the Hathras gang rape case show a disturbing lack of sensitivity.

There are two opposite narratives being crafted on the alleged gang rape and painful death of a 19-year-old woman from a socially oppressed community in Hathras, Uttar Pradesh (UP). At one end opposition parties, social activists and mediapersons together have faced several difficulties reaching the parents and the relatives of the victim. This narrative suggests the denial of the ethical right to stand with the parents of the victim and express their sympathies with the near and dear ones of the deceased teenager. It entails the demand for justice to the victim and her family. At the other end, the narrative by the state seems to dwell on self-serving expressions, such as “incitement to caste hatred” “conspiracies,” “sedition,” and filing of first information reports (FIRs) to deal with protests. Increasingly, the latter kind of narrative is becoming widespread and the police are lending themselves as its handiest creators even elsewhere.

Ever since the gang rape on 14 September, the mainstream social media and public discourse have centred on the horrifying unspooling of events connected with it. Even as the nation was being informed about the spirited fight of the traumatised and physically mutilated teenager, there was news of her death and the shocking burning of her corpse by the UP police at midnight. Her family was not allowed to even take her body home or perform the rituals themselves. Social media was rife with videos of police officers cordoning off her home with the family inside as her pyre burned outside, a local top official telling them that they could consider changing their statements because the media would be around for just a day or two (the implication being obvious), and the deliberate “confusion” over the forensic report about whether she was raped at all. The state police have also been quoted in the media as saying that some foreign human rights groups are involved in fomenting trouble after protests were held nationwide. Incidentally, the state government said in an affidavit before the Supreme Court that it was “forced” to cremate her body in the dead of the night on 1 October due to “extraordinary circumstances and a sequence of unlawful incidents” and that her family was present for the cremation and “agreed to attend to avoid further violence.”

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Updated On : 12th Oct, 2020

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