Hundreds of members of UK-based South Asian women's rights organisations and anti-caste discrimination groups protested outside the Indian High Commission here against a spate of rape cases in India. "This was, on the one hand, a solidarity demonstration with the girls who are victims and survivors of Badaun (Uttar Pradesh) and Bhagana (Haryana) and their families, and secondly an outpouring of anger about what has happened," Amrit Wilson, spokesperson for the South Asia Solidarity Group said yesterday.
The protest, named "Badaun-Bhagana Never Again", saw men and women wave placards that called on the new Indian government to take swift action.
Representatives of groups such as the Freedom Without Fear Platform, South Asia Solidarity Group and Caste Watch UK also delivered a letter addressed to the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi calling for justice. "These rapes and murders are taking place with the collusion of the police as recently highlighted by the UN Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women. In many cases the police themselves are the perpetrators," the letter said. "The government must take measures to guarantee the security of the families of the victims since police are among the accused. The Atrocities Act which is specifically designed to address caste violence must be applied in all cases of caste/gender violence," it adds.
Sarbjit Johal of the Freedom Without Fear Platform, which had called the protest demo, said: "While we are aware that sexual violence against Dalit and oppressed caste women and girls is widespread all over India and has been going on for a long time, the eviction and sexual assault on the Bhagana survivors and their families confirms our fears that things are getting worse not better." The demonstration was organised in the wake of the gang-rape and lynching of two Dalit girls aged 14 and 15 in Badaun last month and the rape of four teenage Dalit girls in Bhagana in March.
Indian High Commission officials here expressed sympathy with the cause and stressed that "violence against women is a serious issue and a global problem."
All five accused in the Badaun case have since been arrested and the two constables have been suspended.