By Jhalak Agarwal:
Whenever we are fighting for a woman’s rights, we say that the caste of a woman is not a determining factor. A misdemeanor against a woman of any caste will not be tolerated. But is it really true? Although we pretend that we have modernized and we have got rid of all the caste prejudices, but in reality we still give priority to caste and religious identities of a person over their gender or anything else. It is what defines us above all. The upper castes grow up believing that they can treat the lower caste in whatever way they like. Rape is just one way in which the upper caste tries to force their superiority on the lower castes.
We saw one such example in the recent kidnapping and rape of four young Dalit girls belonging to the Balmiki community that took place in Bhagana village on March 23rd, 2014. They were abducted by five Jat boys of the same village. They were drugged as well as raped by the five boys. The girls found themselves at the Bhatinda railway station the next morning in a deplorable condition. Even though the Sarpanch was aware about the incident and knew exactly where the girls were, he did not tell the parents until they threatened to lodge a complaint in the police station.
This clearly shows that despite knowing what was going on, the Sarpanch made no effort to stop it and the police didn’t even mention him in the FIR when actually he was the mastermind of the whole operation. We keep highlighting the anti-rape laws but why is it that they are given significance only when the question is about an upper caste girl? Why aren’t the anti-rape laws used now for the Dalit girls? Why are the perpetrators in such cases always freed as soon as possible? Is justice a virtue only for the rich and the upper caste people?
While all of us were outraged at the December 16 rape case, none of us even bothered to question the administration on why there has been no action in this case. In fact, most of us didn’t even know about this incident. Why is it that when there are incidents of horrifying gang rapes of Dalit girls, we turn a deaf ear towards it? Are they not human? Is our mindset really that based on caste? Isn’t it our responsibility to remind the administration that the dignity of every woman is equally important and just because a woman is a Dalit, it doesn’t reduce the importance of her life.
The perpetrators think that they are immune from prosecution against Dalit women because the police choose to neglect the enforcement of law. Entire communities of the perpetrators use their social, economic as well as political power in order to silence the Dalit women. This is done to deny them access to justice. This has resulted in a rise in the number of atrocities faced by Dalit women. While on the one hand the number of atrocities are increasing day by day, on the other hand, there is barely any action taken by the police, government or even the various organizations like The National Human Rights Commission, The National Commission for Women, The National Commission for Schedule Castes and the National Commission for Safai Karmcharis which are supposed to help with these cases only. Such organizations are helpless and as worthless as the other government organizations.
Another shocking incident was when the Haryana government of Bhupendra Singh Hooda filed a case of sedition against an activist who was fighting for Dalit rights. He did it because the Dalits were on a protest against the government for its insensitivity towards the Dalits. What is really shocking is that while the Dalits are considered untouchables and are not allowed inside the temples, they are raped by the same Jats. Doesn’t this contradict the very statement of the Dalits being ‘untouchables’ which has been propagated by them only? The Jats have used their power and thrown the Dalits who revolted outside the village. Although we have an Indian Constitution to help us, it doesn’t work for these people. We do have writs to help us but they can’t even use it.
In our country, being a Dalit woman holds many disadvantages — she is mostly poor, a woman and an ‘untouchable’. None of these things work in your favor. She is discouraged by our society for all of these reasons. She will probably never get the justice she deserves. The administration acts like they will help her but they never do. Even in the ‘Nirbhaya’ case, action was taken because the public came down to help. The Dalits need our help as they are facing these atrocities every single day and its time that we put an end to it. The government, the police and above all the Jats need to know that they cannot get their way by using their power and their acts have consequences. They should know that they will be put behind bars if they misbehave with any woman. It’s time that we give the Dalit women an opportunity to live their lives with dignity and self-respect.