Balrampur (Uttar Pradesh), Oct 6 : Two strikingly similar incidents took place at a distance of about 540 kilometres and within a matter of 24 hours last week.
A Dalit girl died after being assaulted in Hathras and another Dalit woman was raped and killed in Balrampur district.
In both the cases, the accused were promptly arrested and the police forced the families to cremate their daughters in the dead of the night.
Hathras has gone on to become a story of national shame while Balrampur remains largely uncovered by the media.
Political parties in the opposition have also chosen to ignore the Balrampur incident where the 22-year-old B.Com student was raped, drugged/poisoned and sent home in a rickshaw with her back and legs broken.
The reason why the opposition has steered clear of the Balrampur incident is more than apparent.
The two accused who have been arrested are Muslims — Shahid and Sahil — and non-BJP parties do not wish to “disturb” their base among Muslims by raising the Balrampur incident.
Congress leaders have made a customary visit to the victim’s family on Monday but their leaders Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra did not find time to do the same.
A SP delegation also visited the family but did not make much noise about the incident.
The BJP, however, wanted to shift the focus from Hathras to Balrampur and the reasons were obvious.
The accused are Muslims and the narrative of “love jihad” could have been perfectly woven in to the story. A brouhaha over the incident would have given the Yogi Adityanath government a much-needed excuse to bring in a law against “love jihad” that is already being planned.
Two senior officials, including Additional Chief Secretary (Home) Avanish Awasthi, and ADG (Law and Order) Prashant Kumar visited Balrampur on Sunday to meet the victim’s family but the visit did not create ripples in the media and neither did the family make an issue out of it.
The government, interestingly, did not announce any compensation for the victim’s family in Balrampur other sops like a house and a job or a family member.
Sources claim that the purpose was to provoke the family so that focus shifts to Balrampur from Hathras.
Interestingly, almost the entire electronic media has also chosen to ignore the Balrampur incident mainly because the distance between Balrampur and Delhi is 720 kilometres and Hathras, in any case, was already providing fodder for increasing TRPs.
Even some leading newspapers brushed the Balrampur incident into the inside pages while Hathras remained on page one.
The crew of a news channel went to Balrampur but was curtly asked to leave when they asked the victim’s family to make a statement that the accused have links with a terrorist group.
SP-Balrampur Dev Ranjan Verma has ordered a probe into the incident after a 34-second video, in which villagers are seen gheraoing the TV journalists and questioning them, went viral.
“You don’t need to spread any false news report and create propaganda against the government,” the residents were heard as saying.
A senior journalist, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that such incidents have acquired a “commercial angle instead of a humanitarian angle”.
“If you can manage to grab media attention, the government will rush in to placate the aggrieved party with compensation and other offers. Otherwise, you will be left out in the cold.
“The incidents in Hathras and Balrampur were equally brutal and condemnable but one got attention and compensation while the other did not. How does one explain these double standards?” he asked.
A question that many are asking but no one is answering.