Sydney, 16 October 2020
A group of Indians in Australia organised a peaceful candlelight protest to express solidarity and to demand justice for a 19 year old Indian woman belonging to the Dalit (untouchable) community who was allegedly raped and murdered by four upper-caste men in the Hathras village of India’s most populous state – Uttar Pradesh.
The protest was organised by The Humanism Project (THP) in collaboration with the Ambedkar International Mission (AIM-Australia). Representatives from THP and AIM condemned the brutal rape and murder and called out the state’s complicity in allegedly protecting the perpetrators of the crime. Around 20 people gathered at the Centenary Square in Parramatta and utilised placards, slogans and short speeches to register their protest. Some of their key demands were a fair and expeditious investigation of the Hathras incident, protection of the victim’s family during the trial and strict punishment to the accused.
According to AIM Australia, “The Hathras incident is as much a social failure as it is a state failure. Its roots can unequivocally be traced to India’s casteist and patriarchal social system which affords the upper castes a divine right to dominate and desecrate the very soul and dignity of those beneath them. Dalit women are at the bottom of the caste order and hence, despite the barbaric nature of this incident, it has failed to elicit a commensurate response from India’s majority population and political class. We are outraged, saddened and deeply concerned by the casteist and patriarchal mentality responsible for this incident and also by its institutional propagation. Through this protest we raise our voice against atrocities on women and caste-based crimes and demand swift justice in the Hathras case”.
A representative of The Humanism Project said, “The entire world stood up against apartheid in South Africa. We ask for the same global condemnation for the Indian caste system, which is the
longest running apartheid in the world.”
The number of people attending the protest was limited to 20 due to Covid-19 restrictions in Sydney.
Former Greens senator Lee Rhiannon too attended the protest and expressed her solidarity with the Hathras case victim. In her speech, Ms Rhiannon lamented that at times the Australian Prime Minister had spoken about human rights. However, she said she only knew about when he had spoken about human rights in China but when he met with Prime Minister Modi earlier this year, there was no talk
of human rights, i.e., what was happening in Kashmir or to Muslim communities across India or the great distress that had been imposed on to so many people because of the shocking citizenship laws that were targeting certain people. Ms Rhiannon said that she was not holding out immediate hope that the Australian PM would speak out on the Hathras issue but also added that we know from
history, like it happened in case of the anti-apartheid movement against South Africa, that in time when there is a strong public outcry, the crimes against the Dalit people could not be ignored.
AIM Australia and THP are planning other activities to further amplify the effect of this protest, including petitions to the United Nations Human Rights Council.