On December 25, some 20-25 women activists under AIPWA's banner had taken out a demonstration against increasing prices and for 33% reservation for women in Parliament and state assemblies in Varanasi. When, as part of their pre-declared programme, the agitators proceeded to burn the effigy of Deve Gowda, they were greeted with unprovoked and brutal attack by the policemen.
Led by the chief of the local police station, Mahima Rai and his deputy, AK Singh, the policemen first resorted to a lathi charge on the women. In the ensuing commotion, Mahima Singh caught hold of a young activist, Babita Pandey by her hair and while dragging her started slapping and kicking her. When Uday Yadav, a cultural activist, rushed in to her rescue, he too was beaten up by the chief and his deputy. Both of them were beaten till they became unconscious. With their anger unquenched, the policemen packed in six women activists along with Uday in their jeep and took them to the police station.
Once there, the women were surrounded by policemen hurling abusive words at them and beating them. Babita and Uday were beaten till they were rendered unconscious once again. In the inhuman bating, one woman's eye was damaged and Babita's ear drum was damaged. The other women also sustained serious injuries too. The policemen also tried to disrobe Babita and another girl but failed to do so after a brave resistance put up by the other women. During all these tortures, AK Singh repeatedly kept telling the women that their place was in the feet of men and they would never get reservation. Swearing at Uday, Mahima Rai threatened to teach him a lesson by disrobing the women in front of him. The woman station incharge, Usha Saxena was present during all this. It was only by ten in the night that they were released and taken to the hospital.
The incident evoked positive response from various political outfits demanding the immediate dismissal and registering court cases against the police officers. An AIPWA delegation also met the UP home secretary and lodged its protest. An appeal has also been made to the NHRC and NWC. An NWC investigation team led by Kailash Pati visited Varanasi and met the victims.
On 26 December a black day protest was observed in Varanasi. A dharna and a public meeting was held at the district headquarters two days later. Various intellectuals, students, workers and peasants from nearby areas and leaders from other political parties participated in the dharna. Expressing solidarity, marches by other groups were organised in Varanasi. Shocked by the heinous incident various intellectuals and democratic persons came forward condemning the incident. On January 1, AIPWA activists all over the state submitted protest letters addressed to the governor demanding action against the police officers, to the DMs in various districts. On January 13 a demonstration was held in front of the GPO in Lucknow.
Inspite of the growing protests, neither the UP state officials nor the district
administration have taken any action against the culprits. Undeterred, AIPWA will further
pitch up its protest to bring the guilty to the book. A massive women's rally on January
23 drawing women from all over the Purvanchal region will storm Varanasi to demand
immediate action from the district authorities.
It has been AIPWA's experience that the cases of police tortures on women, repression by feudal forces and even disrobing women in public have risen during the governor's rule in the state. Just few days before this incident, well-to-do feudals in a nearby village shaved off the hair of a dalit woman, tore off her clothes, painted her face with black paint and paraded her over a donkey throughout the village. In Allahabad district a similar incident took place and here too the victim was a poor dalit woman.