On September 14, a Dalit woman from Uttar Pradesh’s Hathras district was allegedly gangraped by four men from the powerful upper-caste Thakur community. The assault was so brutal, she died in hospital a fortnight later.

This set off a remarkable set of events where the Uttar Pradesh government, aiming to stop the incident from becoming the focus of protests, forcibly cremated the body of the woman even as her family was detained in their home by the police.

More astonishing events followed. Despite initial medical reports pointing to sexual assault, the Uttar Pradesh government denied a rape had taken place at all. Some Bharatiya Janata Party leaders even alleged that the victim and one of her alleged assaults were in a relationship. The Adityanath government claimed that the protests demanding justice for the woman were the result of an “international conspiracy”. It filed 21 FIRs across the state. A journalist from Kerala was arrested under a stringent anti-terror law for “going to Hathras to disrupt peace as part of larger conspiracy”.

Thakurs and Valmikis

Why did the Uttar Pradesh government react in such a draconian manner? Part of the answer lies in the very nature of the Adityanath administration, which has made it a point to attack civil liberties. The other part of the answer,...

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