Press Release in Support of Dr. Rajkumari Bansal
As activists, professionals and organisations working to fight against sexual and caste violence, we strongly condemn the fake and malicious news that is being broadcast about Dr. Rajkumari Bansal and her courageous support to the family of the victim in the recent case of rape and murder in Hathras by the various media houses in our country. We also collectively salute her courage and commitment to fight against oppression and injustice.
On October 24, 2020 members of various women’s groups in Madhya Pradesh, including Madhya Pradesh Mahila Manch (MPMM), NFIW (MP), Nagrik Adhikar Manch, WSS (MP & CG), and Chhattisgarh Mahila Adhikar Manch met with Dr. Rajkumari Bansal at her home in Jabalpur.
Earlier in the month, having read some of the false media reports that attempted to malign her brave and commendable effort to extend support to the family of the Dalit girl who had been raped and murdered by Thakur men in Hathras, a statement condemning these reports and commending her courage was circulated. Over 700 individuals and organisations endorsed the statement.
The statement, acknowledging how the incident at Hathras laid bare the very heart of caste in India states: “When educated people and professionals such as journalists, doctors, teachers and students begin to challenge caste and extend their solidarity to victims of caste-violence, the foundations of caste-society are threatened in very particular ways. When the person challenging the caste-order happens to be a woman, then the weapons wielded against her carry the weight of histories of violence and patriarchal oppression.”
Listening to Dr. Bansal, it becomes quite clear to us that when the victim happens to be a Dalit woman, then such an act of solidarity and courage is far more threatening to the caste order and the backlash that much more vicious.
In Jabalpur, hundreds of kilometers away from Hathras, Hindu mobs staged a rally and pelted stones at her house. This was following a news piece run by Zee News on the 15th of October – Dr. Bansal had been invited by a local women’s organisation to speak at an event on violence against women. Women of various religions were present. Zee News carried a video clipping of her speech in which they muted the audio, focused on women wearing burkhas in the audience and claimed Dr. Bansal had links to the Tablighi Jamaat. Other news had already been aired tagging her “#naxalbhabhi” and questioning her identity despite her public declaration of her work and qualifications.
While she was with the family at Hathras, a 25-member team arrived that claimed to be close to the UP Chief Minister and had ostensibly been officially sent to meet with the family and inquire about the incident. Many of them were in saffron robes. This was after the victim’s body had been illegally buried by the UP police in the dead of night as the police created a human chain around the fire and refused to let any family members near. The victim’s father requested Dr. Bansal too, to speak with them. Her brave words demanding justice, pointing to the illegality of the cremation and placing caste at the heart of the crime – while members of the “Yogi ayog” kept cutting her off and insisting the victim was “India’s daughter” and “this is not about caste” – probably caused a stir whose reverberations reached the corridors of power in Lucknow.
On the 9th of October, Dr. Bansal got a call from someone claiming to be from the UP police asking about her qualifications. When she said she was a Forensics expert, those words were repeated to someone else in the room and the phone was cut. It was after this that all the fake news began. She was to travel to Lucknow for the court hearing on the 12th of October as per the family’s request, but instead was forced to spend all her time offering clarifications about the numerous false allegations that had begun to circulate about her.
Dr. Bansal says “What happened in Hathras was not only a case of rape and murder of a woman. If it was about rape I wouldn’t have waited from the 14th of September to the 3rd of October to go there. It is because of the rape that the system perpetrated after the incident that I went there. The real case started on the 29th.”
She shared how the victim’s family was threatened by the UP police that they should be glad because if their daughter had been declared corona positive they wouldn’t have received even one rupee of compensation. From the FIR that was initially denied to the family to the incident of the suspension of the doctor who performed the post mortem, the sequence of events validates her words and points to the fact that rape in this country is different for different women. “The girl was even denied admission in AIIMS not long before her death while in this same country the victim in the Nirbhaya case was flown to Singapore for treatment.”
When people like Dr. Bansal speak truth to power – every aspect of their character, qualifications and intentions are subject to suspicion and scrutiny.
After completing her MBBS, Dr. Bansal went on do her DOMS (Eye specialty) from MGM Medical college, Indore. After this she did MD (Pharmacology) from the Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose Medical College (NSCB) Medical college, Jabalpur and then joined as a doctor, in the Department of Forensic at the same Medical College. She is also an Ambedkarite Buddhist. She has conducted hundreds of eye camps in the bastis of Jabalpur and performed numerous surgeries for free among the urban poor. She is actively engaged in social work – helping support girls’ education and conducting after school classes in bastis. During the lockdown, she helped distribute rations and set up small enterprises for several who were rendered unemployed. She says “I did not pursue an education only to procure a job. If I cannot speak up against injustice then what is the use of my education?”
Commending her courage and convictions that resonate with the spirit of the annihilation of caste, we condemn the malicious fake news spread by media houses and demand strict and immediate action against those who raised questions on Dr. Bansal’s actions and intentions.
We also unequivocally condemn the support being garnered for the upper-caste youth in the Hathras rape case, and reiterate the demands made by over 700 individuals and organisations:
1. Strict and immediate action be taken against the media houses that raised questions on Dr. Bansal’s actions and intentions, spreading false and irresponsible information about her.
2. The notice served by the Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose Hospital be immediately withdrawn.
3. That each and every member of the Thakur community who has issued threats of riots and targeted violence should face immediate and strict action.
4. That justice to the victim’s family be served immediately and that all the four Thakur men named in the victim’s statement be prosecuted under the SC & ST Prevention of Atrocities (PoA) Act.
5. That the police officers and District Magistrate be prosecuted as per the provisions of the SC/ST (PoA) Act and an independent inquiry be set up against both the District Magistrate and the Superintendent of police for their wilful neglect of duty, under section 4 of the SC/ST (PoA) Act.
6. The first information report (FIR) must be immediately registered against all the officials involved in the hasty cremation of the victim’s body and all those responsible in helping facilitate the cremation. Mere suspension or transfer is not sufficient to enforce accountability.
7. That the false charges levelled against Kerala-based journalist, Siddique Kappan, be revoked immediately, and the case filed against him be dropped.
8. That FIRs be filed, without any delay, against members of the upper-caste community, especially the Thakur community, who are creating and sharing threatening videos on social media to undermine demands for justice.
9. That UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath (Ajay Mohan Bisht), who also holds the Home portfolio in the state, must resign for the failure to convene State Vigilance and Monitoring Committee meetings for the last three years, as mandated under the SC/ST PoA Act.