Dear Mr. Mishra,
So I heard you beheaded a Dalit today and axed his wife to death. What a pity that all this is doing the rounds on social media, alternative media and on all international media except our own of course. Don’t worry Mr. Mishra, our media loves you but they are compelled to run this story for fear of being labelled as anti-human, which they are but only when it comes to Dalits, mind. They’ll run the story as a token and claim that you did it in a fit of insanity and that you are quick to anger, not because of the casteist animosity that courses through the country’s veins. Almost immediately they will return to their narcotic mix of Bollywood and cricket and all will be forgotten and, more importantly, forgiven. Gone are the good old days Mr. Mishra, when you, your father, uncles and other grandees in the family proudly boasted of gang-raping Dalit women, ensnaring Dalit men in bonded labour, chopping their limbs up and dismembering their bodies when they tried to assert themselves and enjoying the fruits of your religion that bestows accolades on you for keeping Dalits in check. You might even think of it as a quick and easy way to ‘moksha’.
But alas, things are not the same any more. Everyone has a smart phone these days and new-fangled social networks on the internet don’t allow for caste atrocities like they used to. Oh, but I’m sure that you will still find closed caste groups online that’ll celebrate your axe murder. But still, a Dalit rape followed by a public Dalit lynching, peppered with proclamations of your caste supremacy, may prove more elusive now. How much did Bharat Singh owe you Mr. Mishra? Yes, the Dalit did have a name and ironically he shares the same name as our country in our language. Was it him or his wife Mamta who asked you for some biscuits for their three starving children? Yes, she had a name too and it means motherly love, coincidentally. I read it was 15 rupees or 22 cents in foreign money. So let me get this straight, you asked for a packet of biscuits’ worth of money back from them when you saw them going to work one morning and when they said they would pay you later that evening after they were paid their daily wages, you went home, returned with an axe and beheaded Bharat and when Mamta tried to rescue her dying husband, you axed her to death.
I hear you Mr. Mishra, who do these Dalits think they are? Hasn’t society butchered Dalits simply for fun? We don’t even need to hunt game in India, that’s what Dalits are for, aren’t they? Isn’t penetrating a Dalit woman’s body a rite of passage for us? Isn’t emasculating a Dalit man a source of pride and joy for us? Isn’t starving their children and harvesting their organs a profit for us? And the world media except ours is up in arms for your act! What a travesty! What about your caste’s status? What about your religion’s diktats about dispensing summary justice to Dalits who stray? What about almighty Manu smiling ear-to-ear at your accomplishment? They were just Dalits! How dare they take a free packet of biscuits from you? Ask the great sages sitting on the banks of the Ganges about your so-called atrocity and they will cite verse upon verse attesting your act. The puritanical ones may even implore you to go further next time with your axe. No wonder it is Kala Yuga or the age of vice that they say we’re living in. You can’t even murder a Dalit these days with impunity like you used to.
The only respite is that this government totally understands where you’re coming from and your legitimate right to axe Dalits to death. They’re just stuck because they can’t say it out loud or else the economic progress facade might come crashing down. Don’t worry, you might be in prison for now but they’ll treat you with the respect that your caste commands. They won’t put you next to the common Dalits and Muslims languishing for crimes they didn’t commit. They’ll even provide vegetarian ‘sattvic’ food for your virtuous soul. They will pat you on your back for your exemplary show of courage for teaching Dalits a lesson.
So, who am I, Mr. Mishra? Let me introduce myself. I was once one of the starving children that society flung on the margins of destitution as it laboured my father and molested my mother. She was reduced to a skeleton working on a construction site on which I grew up. I never even tasted her milk as she had nothing to give except for her love and rancid water to drink. They would line up each day to receive their daily wages and I watched them clutching the few tatters of money that I knew would mean even less food than yesterday. Their fat paymaster enjoyed making my father beg by deliberately prolonging the time it took for money to pass from his fat fingers to my father’s skeletal digits. He would wave the notes around simulating an owner waving scraps of meat in front of his dog to amuse himself of the power he had over the animal. My father was a dog for him and likewise you can imagine what he made of my mother. His lascivious gaze over her thin body was akin to the first lick a hyena takes of a dying gazelle before it begins its carnage.
I was done with this life, growing up naked on piles of crushed stones and sand. Breathing cement mixes and profanities directed towards us. Accompanying my parents daily to their new pile of rubble. I just wanted some food. No, I didn’t want to go to school, I didn’t want to play a sport, I didn’t want to smell good. All I wanted was an extra mouthful. My rotund belly belied the starvation inside but you could see it in my hollow eyes. Only my parents knew that I was dying but they were too. They knew I would go the same way as my dead siblings. The last one, also lost to the deity of hunger. No, they wouldn’t have it but will is useless when opportunity is stifled. They made a last ditch effort to appeal to the humanity of their paymaster. “Our child is dying; please give us some money for food” they begged, as they dangled my thin body in front of his well-fed eyes. Time stopped, everyone looked. The Dalit had asked. The Dalit had risen. The Dalit had asserted. He slapped me aside flinging me from my mother’s grasp, kicked her in the stomach and grabbed my father’s throat. Before anyone could move, he reached for a hacksaw and slit his throat. My mother picked up her cadaverous body and hurled herself at the monster who deftly landed a right hook that crushed her face in one blow. She died on the spot whereas my father died a few moments later as he bled into the concrete.
The hacksaw wielding upper caste paymaster was enough for the workers to back off as he walked to his freedom trampling on the fresh blood my father had spilled and over the mangled face that once housed my mother’s smile. What he didn’t clock were my hungry eyes. I had forgotten about food for the first time in my life. There were far greater things than food. There were bigger things in life to combat even on an empty stomach. There was dignity to be devoured, freedom to be savoured, revolution to be relished. My parents’ execution drove me out of town. Who wants a Dalit orphan? I survived, taught myself to read and write. To wash and clean and not eat like an animal. I did odd jobs and eked out a living. I wondered what I would do with my parents’ executioner. I had strength, I had youth, I had rage. News reached me that he had passed away. I stymied my personal conflict and joined in the protests sweeping across the country against the fascists. The cow vigilantes and the caste supremacists. The Dalit suicides and public lynchings.
In the midst of it all came the police brutality. They singled me out as I brandished an Ambedkar poster while battling their water cannons. Even their tear gas couldn’t make me cry. What’s left when you have cried your whole life? They beat me in custody and tried to break me. But they realised that you can’t break a Dalit. All that a Dalit has is Ambedkar, everything else caste crushed a long time ago. They backed off when they saw my pain making me stronger. When I could forget food for my cause despite my hunger pangs. When I could forego summary revenge after seeing my parents executed in front of me. When I could scrape an existence as a Dalit orphan in a big city. What’s police brutality in comparison? It is a footnote in my pathetic story of suffering. So you tell me, Mr. Mishra, you have created three of me by killing Bharat and Mamta. You axed India and motherly love on the alter of the caste system. All this you did for the price of a packet of biscuits. So you tell me, Mr. Mishra, what am I going to do with you? Look at me; I am staring right at you from the opposite cell.