By Nilesh Mondal:
The murder of a 30-year-old Keralite woman has recently catapulted a lot of subdued yet scalding questions on our faces. It has also reminded us of the crime and the resultant uprising which took the streets of Delhi by storm in December 2012.
It was almost unavoidable and easy for the media to classify her as ‘another Nirbhaya’, based solely on the amount of brutality she was subjected to before being killed, possibly to stop her from identifying the assailants later.
However, what everyone, including the media, should keep in mind, is how strikingly different these two cases are in their scope, and why calling the rape and murder of Jisha a ‘Delhi model rape‘, is the blatant generalisation that, in turn, hinders the end to such mindless acts of brutality.
Jisha, who was a law student, was found by her mother at home, having been stabbed by sharp objects. She had succumbed to blunt force trauma from wounds to her head. And she was sexually assaulted. Although present in the same bracket of gender violence and the result of a regressively patriarchal mindset as Nirbhaya’s death, Jisha is also the victim of caste oppression which reinforces the segregation of an already marginalised section of the society further to the fringes of darkness where they are most prone to being victimised.
A clear marker of this can be seen in the fact that Jisha’s death was subdued and kept in the dark initially, and even when it was brought out by the media, it was unnecessarily sensationalised by graphic description and statistical comparisons of her wounds with Nirbhaya’s, which made it look like ‘just another raped-and-killed’ case. There have been complaints of the police trying to shield the insinuated culprits and the fact that they hadn’t arrested anyone till the incident sparked public outrage, speaks volumes about how caste politics plays a vital role in crimes such as these.
There had been little widespread outrage over Jisha’s death initially. Few petitions were sent from the state seeking active help from the Centre if they are indeed unsuccessful in bringing the culprits to justice.
Generalising the crimes against Jisha, or any woman, as being a ‘Delhi model rape’ also enforces the horrific trend of assigning blame to some attribute of the social space where the woman resides and, in turn, choosing to shame the ‘victim’ more than the culprits. Putting the numerous incidents in question on the same pedestal would mean politicians blaming the girl for seducing the rapist; it would mean regressive patriarchs asking why she had to study, or work, or go out of her home; and it would mean religious heavyweights advising her to call her rapists brothers.
This generalisation would make it easier for the wrongdoers to hide behind the apathy that taking away all context from these brutalities, and putting them in the ‘mistakes happen sometimes’ box the politicians try so hard to propagate, can lead to.
What we must be careful about is to not let Jisha become just another of the incidents filed and forgotten in a country where sexual violence keeps becoming more prevalent every day.
What we must be steadfast about is to not let this be a media hype that dies down after a couple of days. And we must definitely not let this be another situation to be milked for advantage in a state where elections are at hand.
What we must promise is to stand in solidarity against the crime, but not lug the incidents together in a way which diminishes the graveness of these crimes.