Manisha Mashaal quoted to Refinery29, “A Jat man cannot know what his land tastes like until he tastes the Dalit women living there.” On 18th July 2016, the Indian Express news ran out like the boy selling papers on the road and screaming the headlines for better sales, “Dalit woman gangraped for second time in 3 years by same accused”. The first rape ‘just happened’ and the second time it was to ‘teach her a lesson’ because she tried to jail the rapists and refused an out-of-court settlement of Rs. 50 lakh. The legal system bailed out the accused and they chased down the victim to Bhiwani from Rohtak, only to rape her for the second time, in the year 2016. This is Haryana for you. If we start talking about other states, we will have to rename them in correspondence with their most gruesome cases. Kerala would be “Jisha” and Delhi would be “Jyoti”. Many crimes would not find a home because the media and the legal system are shoddy in their reporting of those crimes which are based on internalized racism and driven by misogyny. I am reminded of the movie ‘The Color Purple’ (1985), “Who you think you is? You can curse nobody. Look at you. Your black, you’re poor, you’re ugly, you’re a woman…”
The patterns in violation of Dalit women’s dignity and bodies are closely related to their socio-economic stifling. There are no toilets at home so women go for open defecation and are raped en route. The predators don’t always seek isolation. They beat up the Dalit families and rape their women. The relatives witness it with battered bodies and shattered souls. Some Dalit women work as migrant casual laborers like Jisha’s mother (2016, Kerala), and some work as domestic workers and do other odd jobs. The women are harassed by employers and when they run to police for help; they are not only denied justice but are raped as lesser mortals (1972, Maharashtra). The rapes happen not only because Dalit women are vulnerable but the predators do so with impunity because the legal system denies them justice and the media denies them dignified reportage which fails to garner public uproar and solidarity. The media houses publish articles on rape like luscious scandals or like a deadpan stenographer which does not want to create mass upheaval nor does it want to put pressure on the legal system for expedited justice. It is also a matter of great misfortune that the Indian judiciary behaves like an intestine which needs external mass and pressure from the media and citizens to perform its regular bowel movements.
Google as data repository is replete with Dalit rapes which sketchily date to the year 2016 from the year 1972. In the year 2014, two Dalit girls were gang raped and strangulated in Uttar Pradesh. Their father begged the police for cooperation and was denied the same. 17 Indian government officials raped 18 Dalit women in the state of Tamil Nadu, when in 1992 a frantic search for smuggled sandalwood by Veerappan had been decreed. In the year 2013, a 10 year old girl in Odisha watched on, as her Dalit mother was raped by the landlord after ousting the family from the house. An activist mentioned ‘Kaffee’ in passing who, in the year 2013, was killed after being raped and given cigarette burns in the process. There has been no media coverage on Kaffee. I am sure I won’t even find her name in the obituary section of the most sub-standard newspaper India can produce.
The Annual Report of the National Commission for Scheduled Castes (2013-14) gives mathematics to the pain. 39,327 incidences of crime have been reported of which only 19 percent have been cited as cognizable offences. The Report also states that 1, 18,773 cases have been pending for justice from the year preceding the time of the survey. The National Crime Records Bureau gives a modest figure of 3596 Dalit rapes across five states (Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Gujarat) between the years 2011 to 2013. The All India Dalit Mahila Adhikar Manch, on its website, has reported that there are close to 250 million Dalit women but there is no data to support the figure. In a country, where crime is rampant, both – the figures of Dalit population and the crime against them are undoubtedly under-reported. Forget about the reporting and the numbers, are we at least speaking of the heinous crime itself, let alone standing up for it?
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
– The Second Coming by W.B. Yeats
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