What happens when a funeral procession is banned and grieving itself is perceived to be a threat? One is not allowed to touch the body of the dead person. One screams silently. One weeps – but not aloud. That is what the authorities decreed in Hathras. This has been happening for some time in Kashmir, where bodies of militants killed in encounters are not handed back to their families. Grieving is the core of what makes us human. It is the act that heals the deepest wounds of humanity.

In the Uttar Pradesh district of Hathras last week, an inconsolable mother just wanted to kiss the forehead of her daughter who died after days in hospital, battered after being gangraped by four upper-caste men. The authorities would not allow her to. They would not let the vehicle with the young woman’s body stop at the family home. Even as relatives threw themselves in front of the vehicle, it was driven to the cremation ground.

This decision not to allow the family to grieve at the woman’s last rites was not a lapse. It conveyed a profound meaning. It was a clear sign of the insecurity of the state. It was a sign that the young...

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