The Hathras episode simply follows a pattern that repeats itself again and again all over rural India. Invariably, the victim is a low caste girl; invariably, the perpetrator is from the wealthy upper caste. It appears that the police force almost always follows the money and sides with the rich. There is always a cover-up, and evidence is destroyed. The cover-up works best if the media and activists are kept away from the scene. It seems that the administration has a vested interest in the cover-up, as negative publicity makes it look bad. Most of the time, this approach works. Many such cases are covered up, or simply go unnoticed.
What changed in the Hathras incident was that the girl was hospitalized for two weeks before she passed away. This gave ample time for media coverage, and for opposition leaders to jump into action. Even so, the police tried to cover up and destroy as much evidence as it could. Attempts were made to bully the victim’s family into submission, but they didn’t quite work due to the intense media scrutiny.
The administration had to keep the appearance of action—so there were some suspensions, and ultimately, the perpetrators were arrested. However, the real question is: will the concerned officers remain suspended once the media glare is over, or will they just be transferred somewhere else? If that happens, it would only be similar re-arranging the chairs on the decks of the Titanic.
Our media isn’t perfect but must keep exposing such cases wherever they occur. It is the only thing that will stop such atrocities. As the Washington Post says in its logo: “Democracy dies in darkness.”
Luckily, in India, there is still a lot of democracy left.