Amnesty International India welcomes orders by the Supreme Court of India that recognize the vulnerability of a Dalit family from Baghpat, Uttar Pradesh, who fled their village fearing caste-based discrimination and violence.
On 16 September, the Supreme Court, responding to a petition filed by 23-year old Meenakshi Kumari, directed the Delhi Police to provide the family with protection. The previous day, the Court had assured the family in an in-camera hearing that they would receive full protection.
Meenakshi Kumari’s petition stated that the family had faced several human rights abuses by dominant caste members, including an order by a khap panchayat- an unelected all-male village body- that she and her 15-year old sister be raped and paraded naked as ‘punishment’ for their brother Ravi Kumar having eloped with a married woman from a dominant caste.
“The last few months have been a harrowing time for this family,” said Gopika Bashi, Women’s Rights Researcher, Amnesty International India. “The Supreme Court orders offer hope that they will finally get justice.”
The Supreme Court also ordered that Meenakshi’s brother Ravi Kumar, who is being detained in a case of alleged drug possession, be released on a personal bond. Ravi Kumar was arrested in May a day after he and the dominant caste woman were handed over to the police. A local court had ordered his release on bail, but the family was unable to find anyone to serve as a guarantor.
In a recorded telephone conversation in May allegedly between Ravi Kumar’s brother and a local police official, the official had admitted that he had been falsely implicated. Another case of alleged rape has also been filed against members of the family, who say that it is fabricated.
The Supreme Court ordered that no investigation report in the two cases be filed without its permission. A local police official involved in Ravi Kumar’s arrest has already been suspended.
Rahul Tyagi, a lawyer for the family, told Amnesty International India, “The Supreme Court has directed the Uttar Pradesh Police not to file any charges in the cases without its permission.”
Gaurav Bhatia, the lawyer for the Uttar Pradesh government, said, “We are very concerned. The state government has offered to provide protection to the family. Their security is of utmost importance.”
“The Uttar Pradesh Government must ensure that the family receives adequate remedy, including justice and reparation,” said Gopika Bashi.
“If the family is unable to return to their village, they must receive the support they need to live elsewhere in safety and with dignity.”