By Maya Palit
Four years ago, a woman from Sultanpur, Uttar Pradesh, claimed that she was raped by eight men, including a Samajwadi Party legislator. She filed a case against them, which is still ongoing in court. Although they were granted police protection initially, her father said this was later withdrawn. On Saturday night her dead body was located by the police near her house, after her father complained that she had gone missing.
Arun Verma, the Samajwadi leader implicated in the case, dismissed it as a deliberate conspiracy during the elections. Circumstantial evidence shows that he wasn’t in the state during the crime, and has been absolved by the police. Nonetheless, the party has gained notoriety for its appalling stand on women’s safety. Abu Azmi, the current president of the party’s Maharashtra branch is now known for his outrageous stance on rape — including his suggestion that victims of rape should also be punished.
Two years ago, a 14-year-old girl was raped in Badaun district, and the son of a Samajwadi Party leader was apparently involved. This was the same year that a senior leader of the party dismissed rape as a non-existent phenomenon, and declared that it occurs with women’s consent. And although the number of rape crimes dropped in the initial stages of the party’s rule, reports claimed that women found it much easier to report and file cases of rape and sexual assault under Mayawati’s reign — if true, this wouldn’t come as a surprise, given that the UP police was implicated as well as accused of negligence in crimes against Dalit women, including a grotesque incident where two women were raped and hanged in Badaun in 2014.
With the most recent death of a gangrape survivor, the atmosphere in the state continues to be one of high risk for women, despite all the parties contesting in the elections vowing to prioritise women’s safety