UP accounted for 14.7 per cent of all registered crimes against women in 2019.
The state also recorded the highest number of cases against Dalit women, reports Rashme Sehgal, highlighting three recent cases that shook the national conscience.
'My daughter was lying naked with her tongue protruding from her mouth. Her eyes were bulging out and she was bleeding from her mouth, her neck and there was blood near her eyes... I quickly covered her with the pallu of my sari, and started screaming.'
This is the statement given by the mother of the 19-year old Hathras victim who was then taken by her mother and brother to the Chandpa police station in September last year, only to have the police tell them, 'Just take her away from here.'
Her story bears repetition because this is the fate of young women who are gangraped and often end up dead because of the kind of horrendous wounds inflicted on them by the rapists.
In the case of this 19 year old from a Dalit household, her family next hired an ambulance and took her to a local hospital where she was kept waiting for two crucial hours before being referred to the Jawaharlal Nehru Medical Hospital in Aligarh.
She was kept there for nine days with the doctors refusing to confirm that she had suffered sexual assault.
She was then bundled off to Safdarjung Hospital in Delhi where she briefly regained consciousness to be able to give the names of the four men who had maimed, assaulted and raped her.
All four men belonged to the dominant Thakur community.
She died on September 29 2020, but the agony of her family did not end with her death.
The police refused to hand over her body to the family members to conduct her last rites.
Rather, in the dead of night, the police carted it to a wilderness outside her village, doused it with petrol and cremated her.
The story bears repeating because this is the story being played out with uncanny brutality in the Hathras-Badaun-Unnao belt of Uttar Pradesh.
On January 3, 2021, another equally horrendous gang rape and murder took place of a 50-year old anganwadi woman belonging to the Dalit community in the nearby Badaun district.
The woman left her house around 6 pm to visit a nearby temple.
When she did not return home for the next two to three hours her husband and son went to the police station, but were turned back.
At 11.30 pm, the body of this blood-soaked half dead woman who had obviously faced brutal sexual assault, was dumped outside her house.
Her family rushed her to the hospital where she died, again after informing her family members of having been gang-raped by the temple priest, his disciple and his driver.
Even then the police did not consider the situation urgent enough to take immediate action.
Staion House Officer Ravendra Pratap Singh of the Ughaiti police station informed the woman's husband that he would take up the matter the next morning.
Her post-mortem the following day confirmed rape, injury in her private parts and fracture of her legs.
Rape followed by murder.
This deadly cocktail of crime is being played out practically every day in our country.
Badaun shot into national prominence when two cousins, 14 and 15 years old, were found hanging from a mango tree on May 27, 2014.
The stark image remains etched in our national consciousness.
The post-mortem of the girls revealed that they had been raped, tortured and strangulated, but were alive at the time of being hanged.
The local police arrested three men who belonged to the powerful Yadav community.
Akhilesh Yadav was then the UP chief minister and pressure was bought on the cops to 'free' the men.
The CBI was brought in to investigate this case.
Six months later, the CBI had concluded that these girls were not sexually assaulted and murdered, but had taken their own lives.
Fortunately, the CBI closure report was subsequently overturned by a POCSO court, much to the discomfiture of the country's premier investigative agency.
An equally horrendous rape took place, of a young teenage girl from Unnao who had the 'gall' to levy rape charges against four-time MLA Kuldeep Singh Sengar in 2018.
Both he and his brothers had the reputation of being notorious musclemen who were known to terrorise villages through a combination of fear, money power and caste domination belonging as they did to the dominant Thakur community.
I met this rape survivor in the crumbling guest house in Unnao named after former prime minister Charan Singh in 2018.
She was moaning in terror as she had just learnt about her father's death.
She claimed he had been beaten to death by 'the brother and other associates of the vidhayak (Kuldeep Singh Sengar).'
Four policewomen sat on chairs next to her, but were all busy with their respective mobile phones.
The rape survivor's father was beaten mercilessly after he lodged a complaint against Sengar at the police thana in Makhi in Unnao district on April 3, 2018.
When the injured father was brought to the Unnao government hospital, he had 48 deep abrasions on his body according to the hospital medical report.
Mohammed Yunus, owner of a grocery shop, was witness to the father being beaten up.
Yunus had emerged as a key witness in the case, but three months later in August he died under mysterious circumstances with the CBI having failed to provide him with police protection (by then the case had been handed over to the CBI).
Despite the UP government having given clear instructions that this young rape survivor be provided 24x7 police protection, there was no police constable with her at the time a truck rammed into the Ambassador car in which she and members of her family were travelling, seriously injuring her, her lawyer and killing her two aunts who were travelling with her.
This happened in 2019.
The rape survivor was then taken to King George's Hospital in Lucknow and was subsequently flown from there to AIIMS for treatment.
Her case had shot into national prominence when she tried to immolate herself outside Chief Minister Ajay Mohan Bisht (aka Yogi Adityanath)'s residence.
She had resorted to this extreme step because of the failure of the local police to take action against her father's killers.
These are just three of a litany of horror stories that seem to reoccur with repeated frequency in Uttar Pradesh.
Activist and CPI-M politburo member Subhashini Ali points out that the three districts of UP, namely Hathras, Badaun and Unnao, could hardly be singled out for their crimes against women.
"Most parts of UP including Meerut and Bareilly are killing fields as far as women are concerned," says Ali.
Crime against women has gone up 73 per cent in 2019 as against 2018, according to the National Crime Records Bureau, with UP accounting for 14.7 per cent of all registered crimes against women, with 59,853 cases.
UP has not only recorded the highest number of cases against women but also against Dalit women. These figures are based on the number of rapes recorded in police stations and not on the number of crimes that have actually occurred.
Dr Ranjana Kumari, director, Centre for Social Research, reports that one of the reasons for this rising crime graph is because "little comes out of the earlier rape investigations, with a large number of these cases not even ending up in court."
"While rights-based movements have been pushed back, the rights of police have increased manifold especially following the lockdown," says Neelam Chaturvedi, who helps run the NGO Mahila Manch in Kanpur,.
"Rape in UP is nothing new and crimes against Dalit women has happened frequently in the past also," says Chatuvedi, who has been active in the women's movement for five decades.
"What is difficult to explain is the enormous increase in acts of brutality and bestiality at the time of the rape," she says.
These are three examples of high profile cases of crimes against women.
Two of these women are dead.
The third survived because of timely intervention by the courts.
Feature Presentation: Ashish Narsale/Rediff.com