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The Unnao Murders: No Country For Dalit Women

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TW: Mentions of rape, murder, caste-based atrocities

The Murders At Unnao

3 minor Dalit girls were found tied up in their family’s fields in Unnao, with 2 of the 3, aged 16 and 17 declared dead on arrival when they were taken to the hospital. The third, aged 17 remains in critical condition. 

There is a lack of confidence in Ajay Singh Bisht’s police to conduct a fair and impartial investigation.

The UP Police dismiss it as a case of poisoning, stating that there were no signs of struggle or injury found prima facie. The brother of the girls stated that they left to collect grass, and were found with their hands and feet tied. 

There are several claims and videos on the internet showing the UP police barricading the victim’s family as a means to silence them, similar to the case in Hathras. Previously in Unnao, BJP leader Kuldeep Singh Sengar was protected from rape charges and the survivor was burnt alive in 2019.

Updates as of now are scant, with the remaining survivor fighting for her life in a Kanpur hospital. Many groups and activists have demanded that her treatment and post-mortem be done in AIIMS Delhi, as well as an independent inquiry be launched on the deaths and grievous injury to avoid any tampering of evidence by the UP Police and Yogi government.

The Current Situation In Hathras

The Hathras gangrape saw national outrage, but five months after the event, the situation for the victim’s family is bad, and the hope for justice is slim. According to a report by Newslaundry, the family is under constant 24/7 protection/surveillance by the CRPF because of the threat that the Upper Caste poses, who were also rallying in favour of the perpetrators.

Ajay Singh Bisht, the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh also stated that the case would be moved to a fast-track court, this has also not been done in the last 5 months. 3 of the 4 accused have already applied for bail, which was denied. You can find the full report below:

Uttar Pradesh has seen a constant increase in crimes against scheduled castes, with the latest National Crime Records Bureau data showing an increase of 7.6%. Only 9% of these cases have been charged with the SC/ST (Prevention Of Atrocities) Act.

Savarna Control And Domination

India as a country has not taken one step towards liberating Dalits, Adivasis, and OBCS, with statistics, the nature of the Indian state, and the behaviour towards SCs/STs/OBCs still showing how the Savarna Hindu attempts to dominate the lower caste through societal and state machinery.

In the case of Uttar Pradesh, 44% of the seats in the Vidhan Sabha are held by Upper castes, the highest since 1980. SC representation has reduced significantly while OBC representation has not increased. There is also an increased representation of the Thakur Upper Caste, of which Ajay Singh Bisht is one.

Only 9 out of 75 district chiefs, 1 out of 18 range chiefs, and one out of 8 zonal heads in the Uttar Pradesh Police force belong to SC communities. Research has shown a direct correlation of representation of minorities with the amount of effort put into impartial investigations of cases of crimes against minorities, a fact which is practically visible in the UP Police’s conduct in the Hathras and the Unnao case.

Dalit women in India are often the worst affected, with the intersection of caste and patriarchal violence that is predominant in India. According to the National Family Health Survey, 33.2% of Dalit women experience physical violence by the age of 15. In 2018, 2957 Dalit women were raped across the country, 871 of the victims were minors at the time of the incident.

This corresponds to 8 Dalit women being subjected to sexual assault every day in India, with the real number perhaps even higher as many cases are not reported due to fear of retaliation from Upper-castes, police inaction, and bias of all state machinery.

No One Killed The Dalits

The denial of justice to Dalits is a part of Indian history, with 1000s upon 1000s of incidents and massacres still unpunished by the Indian state and the savarna machinery. Two incidents from opposing parts of India that draw attention to this are the Kilvenmani massacre in 1968 and Bathani Tola in 1996. 

In Kilvenmani, 44 striking Dalit labourers, mostly old people, women, and children were burnt alive in a hut by UC landlords. Children who were thrown out of the burning building were thrown back in by the Savarna killers. Similar to Hathras in 2020, political leaders of CPi(M), journalists, and protesters were not allowed into the village after the event, and the cremations of the bodies were done under heavy police protection so that the families couldn’t access the bodies.

The attackers went to the local police station, demanding protection which they got, and initially, the victims themselves were blamed. In the subsequent trials, the landlords who had organised it only got 10 years of jail and were later acquitted. Cases were filed against the victims and members from the Dalit community were only acquitted in 1995.

Representational image.

In Bathani Tola, 21 Dalit labourers were massacred by the Ranvir Sena, an Upper Caste militia in the state who then carried forward several other massacres. The Ranvir Sena had support from the Bihar Police, and BJP’s Murli Manohar Joshi, C.P Thakur, and former PM Chandra Shekhar were all sympathizers. All the accused were acquitted

Speaking in the 7th Anuradha Gandhy Memorial Lecture, Meena Kandasamy, author and activist, who has written about the Kilvenmani massacre in her book The Gypsy Goddess, gave a speech about how events like this have happened again and again after Kilvenmani, and how the state has always colluded with the accused to grant them protection.

The Current Condition Of The Girl Alive In Unnao

Several activists report that the doctor who attended to the injured girl believes prima facie, that there appears to be brain damage. The family is collecting funds and they do not have the finances to treat the girl left alive in the Unnao case. You can contribute to proper medical treatment through this link or by Google/Phone Pay to 9993179062.


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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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