The undeniably horrific treatment of women in India is neither a secret nor any sort of new development. In fact, the most surprising thing about it at this point is how little is being done to fix the problem. As is the case with most societal failings, if they are not corrected in time, people get desperate. And the story of Usha Narayane is a powerful example of what happens when women in a culture that ignores rape feel like no one will protect them.
For ten years, Narayane has lived as the face of the massive mob that killed Akku Yadav.
Reports say that on August 13, 2004, Yadav was brutally murdered by a mob of women who ambushed him at a courthouse while he was under police protection. The hundreds of women of the Kasturba Nagar slum all accused Yadav of rape, murder, and a slew of other crimes, and although the evidence against the man was overwhelming, local police refused to do anything about it. According to The Hindu, many women claimed that when they reported their rapes to police, they were either laughed at or told that they deserved to be raped. When Yadav was actually arrested for three separate murders, he was let go each time. Yadav also continuously terrorized the community, abused the women, and continued his chain of sexual assaults for years without any police intervention.
Two weeks prior to his death, Yadav reportedly approached Narayane, who at 25 was an outspoken advocate for the women in her community, and threatened to rape her.
"He raped only poor people whom he thought wouldn't go and tell, or if they did, wouldn't be listened to,” said Narayane, who herself was educated and set to take a managerial position in the north of India prior to the incident. “But he made a big mistake in threatening me. People felt that if I were attacked, no woman would ever be safe."
The week before the lynching, Yadav disappeared from the area after hearing chatter that action was going to be taken against him. Hundreds of residents proceeded to destroy his home, and at that point, police took him into custody to protect him, the alleged serial rapist and murderer, from harm.
The women of the slum heard that Yadav was going to be given a hearing for accusations against him, but the belief was that he would once again be granted bail. Fearing for their safety, a group of 200 women went to the courthouse on the day of his hearing and brutally murdered Yadav. The rapist had two police officers protecting him when the women entered the courthouse wielding knives, but they fled out of fear for their own lives. The 200 women proceeded to cut off Yadav’s penis, repeatedly stab him, and throw stones at him until he was dead on the floor. Five women were immediately arrested, but ultimately, they were released when every single woman from the slum claimed responsibility for the attack.
Narayane said that while the mob attacked Yadav, she was actually collecting signatures for a petition against the serial rapist, but police still arrested her and accused her of planning the lynching.
"It was not calculated," Narayane said. "It was not a case that we all sat down and calmly planned what would happen. It was an emotional outburst. The women decided that, if necessary, they'd go to prison, but that this man would never come back and terrorise [sic] them."
Narayane was reportedly released from custody in 2012. Sadly, as The Hindu’s Mythili Sundar writes, the mistreatment of women by India’s male dominated society, especially as thousands of rape cases are dismissed by authorities every year, is still as strong today as it was in 2004.
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