Caste Based Crime: A Reality In The Country

Kakali Das

For the last two days we have been talking about the horrific rape cases that have emerged from Uttar Pradesh. It is our fault that we only have been talking about it for the last two days and not before that. But there is an another conversation that we must have, that has emerged from all of this – the conversation of how the media treats gender caste based violence and why that is! Protest marches have taken place across the country. Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi were walking towards Hathras and the former was pushed, fell on the grass. The police detained both of them and they both have now been released. The forensic report of the Hathras victim has now been dragged by the Additional DGP, Prashant Kumar of UP who has now said that basically there was no rape since no samples of sperm have been found in the samples that were tested. That has caused even more frowning about the fact that the police aren’t adequately doing their jobs. We also expect that since so many politicians now have thrown their hat in the ring and the conversation is now shifting from the crime and the family into politics, we might lose track of what is really going on.

“Most newsrooms are dominated by the upper caste voices; almost all the editors of newspapers, television channels in this country are upper class, also in many cases, male and Hindu”, Faye D’Souza, Senior Journalist said. Does this alter the way the media covers gender caste based violence in India and is it possible at all that people in the upper class empathise and try to imagine what it must have been like? Why is it not possible to create platforms and actually listen to the voices of people from the Dalit community?

“Why can’t we, for once, admit that caste exists and move the conversation forward. We all know caste exists and we all have been the witnesses of caste based discrimination. People practise caste discrimination on their own households in a day to day basis, on the weddings and even in segregating the neighbourhood villages at all levels and all means. Still when it comes to sexual violence where a Dalit woman has been brutalised and killed, when the community is outraging against the injustice caused to her, it is merely a news for the upper caste group. The state missionaries, the law enforcement agencies and the legal system have already failed us. With all of the institutions, structures failing us and the society enabling and encouraging such violence against Dalit woman by asking us to not speak about the caste angle, I don’t know what to do or say. I know what will happen eventually. Yesterday we were talking about justice and today we have a statement from the DGP who said that there was no rape. So we know what will happen and what sort of questions will be raised in the court room and how the judges will deal with the case. From my experience as a lawyer of the court room for 11 years I know how impunity is being provided and being enjoyed by the perpetrators at all levels by all authorities”, Kiruba Munusamy, Lawyer, Supreme Court of India said.

Eventually, in the quest of seeking justice for the victims ‘sides’ get picked and it becomes a matter of a religious battle, a battle against community, state government and that it gets politicised. We are already witnessing that road being charted out for this case as well. “It’s always a burden on our Dalit communities to prove how we have been victimised. We should atleast talk about Uttar Pradesh where caste supremacy and caste hegemony are wide open. We aren’t talking about an Urban space where we have to introspect where caste exists. It’s happening in Up, in Hathras”, Ms Munusamy further said.

“I want us to just go back to the Khairlanji massacre which also marks a water shed on how the society has treated violence on Dalit women’s bodies and how the society had to set fire to the Deccan Queen Train before any writer or a journalist could write and talk about it and the one journalist who wrote a story on the incident, who was a foreigner, was deported from the country. That is the delegitimisationthat is given to any society on the violence that Dalit women’s bodies are subjected to. It was known to everyone that the massacre took place due a land and caste related dispute but when the verdict was given, did they say that it was a caste atrocity? No. They said that it was a land dispute. The judiciary had already prejudged the case. In the current Hathras incident the police burnt the evidence in public after confining the family and this is the way the judicial system has worked and now the media is asking if caste-based violence still exist! Had it been a Thakur girl and not Dalit the Police wouldn’t have dared touch the body of the deceased, let alone burning it in the absence of the family. Why is the question on the existence of caste based violence being asked repeatedly? The lack of representation of the marginalised in the newsrooms is one of the multiple reasons behind it. I think that is also a very crucial reflection of the reality of our society that every channel of discourse, whether it is media or the parliament or public discourses, academia are all controlled by people with vested interests which include casteist forces, patriarchal forces etc. Yet the journalists ask us why do we bring caste into everything. I have had a voice for a long time in the mainstream media not because it accepted me. I have always been an independent voice. No media organisation has hired me for a fulltime job. I have already understood that people like us who have free and fearless voices and who belong to a category which somehow doesn’t fit into the mainstream society, it’s always better not to be a part of any establishment”, Cynthia Stephen, Dalit Activist, Writer, Social Policy Researcher, and an Independent Journalist said.

“When one of my very important papers was submitted the mainstream journal didn’t even acknowledge it. Since then I was determined that I would not submit any more Journal papers to any mainstream journal. I have put it in the public domain and that is the reason why all my important articles are available in the public domain. The mainstream set up doesn’t accept Dalit voices, Dalit opinions”, she further said.

We don’t matter. Our women don’t matter. It’s only in the most gruesome acts inflicted on us that you choose to let humanity reach us. In your heads you dissolve our community to fragment it into pieces and pick up whatever you like and make it your cause and fight. I have grown tired of people explaining how this is a caste atrocity. I am tired of explaining to people how Dalit feminism is so different from Savarna feminism. The whole point of Savarna feminism is to claim to build a sisterhood amongst women but everytime we speak about this being a Dalit rape case they choose to dissociate, they can’t look at it as something they can learn from, which is a part of feminism or any progressive movement for that matter. They straightaway question, “Why is it have to be about Dalit and can’t just be about Women?” This is exactly a kind of dissociation that comes from a privileged upbringing; you feel entitled to a certain voice, your level of confidence is different. I can belong to any class, but I can’t change my caste. It will take immense effort but I can change my class; I can work a lot, try my best to get my income higher but I will never be able to change my caste. So these people who are even from the lower middle class, when they belong to an upper caste there is a sense of entitlement. This sort of appropriation of what is happening to Dalit women and trying to take away the attention seems like a very deliberate and conscious attempt to take away our voices. It took one fall from Rahul Gandhi for the media to completely shift its focus”, Divya Malhari, Dalit Teacher & Writer said.

I was told by someone when I was very young – Read everything that you can get your hands on. Nothing that you read would ever go to waste, even if you are reading the back of your Shampoo bottle. Step back from history that is taught to you in class, and look at it holistically. Some of the Kings and the Empires that we celebrate in our country were actually built on Dalit labour and Dalit atrocities and we don’t see it because it isn’t embedded much in the scripts of history. But if you step back a little and pay a close attention, you will start to see it in between the lines. In order to grasp it better,kindly read B. R. Ambedkar’s books. If not all the books, read “The Constitution Of India” by him, at least. It will do the trick.


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