There have been massive debates about how a festival that compels a 5-year-old boy to ‘save’ a fully-grown woman is really furthering the inane logic behind patriarchy. And women do its dirty work (with damning logic like it can kill a brother if we don’t tie threads on them) – for what? Gifts? A packet of ₹2100?
As we debate patriarchy, capitalism catches up with commodity fetishism. Here’s one such message out of a plethora of others that reached me on Raksha Bandhan: “Celebrate Raksha Bandhan by gifting ur sibling delicious & healthy Pita sandwich/salad from Pita Pit. Get 10% off. Order @ orders.pitapit.inCpn: RAKBAN10.*T&C*”
Before you put forth your excessive sentiments to say that Rakhi is not all about patriarchy, force and pithy capitalism, read this till the end.
[Note: The following is a version of the statement that’s been issued by the Bastar Solidarity Network – Delhi Chapter on Facebook. It can be found here.]
A district in Chhattisgarh – Dantewada. A village in Dantewada – Palnar. In Palnar, there is a school for girls, with hostel. About 500 tribal girls study there.
Last Monday, the additional collector of Dantewada district and many other officers came to the school. These people had planned to script a programme here. The programme was to get the girls of this school tie rakhis on the CRPF soldiers.
So, on Monday, July 31, 2017, these officers took around 100 CRPF men inside the girls’ school. The girls were told to tie rakhis on the CRPF men. Five hundred girls tied rakhis on the CRPF men.
On the orders of the officers, a video was made of this programme. The government wanted to show that tribal women consider CRPF men as their ‘defenders’. This programme was to be shown on TV channels in Chhattisgarh on Raksha Bandhan.
This programme of making the video in the school continued for a long time. In the middle of the programme, some girls went to the toilet to urinate. Five or six CRPF soldiers quietly followed the girls.
The girls protested against the CRPF soldiers standing outside the toilet. These CRPF men threatened the girls and said that they would have to ‘search’ them. In the name of searching, the CRPF men brutally squeezed the breasts of three girls.
A girl was inside the toilet when three soldiers also entered it. For 15 minutes, the three soldiers stayed inside the toilet with that tribal girl. The girls standing outside were intimidated by the other CRPF men there.
After this, the girls went to their rooms and the CRPF men joined their crew. After the programme, all the soldiers and officers left the school. ‘Mission accomplished’ it was.
At night, the girls told their warden, Draupadi Sinha, about the misdeeds by the CRPF men. The warden gave this news to the SP and the Collector.
The next day, the collector and the SP reached Palnar. But they did not visit the girls. Instead, both the officers called the complainants to the CRPF camp.
The hostel warden took two girls to the CRPF camp. There, the collector and the superintendent (SP) threatened both of them and instructed them not to tell anyone about this incident.
But the news spread throughout Palnar. The villagers called Soni Sori for help.
When Soni Sori went to meet the girls in the hostel, she saw a stunning scene. The warden of the hostel had locked the gates of the school and was sitting there like a watchman. A female police constable was also stationed at the gate. They were guarding the gates to stop any social activist or journalist from going in!
After school time was over and the girls went to their houses, Soni Sori asked them about the incident. The girls narrated the entire incident.
Himanshu Kumar, a social activist, who informed us about the above, is moving court against such gross sexual offences and the impunity awarded in return.
He says that when the girls complained about the misbehaviour, the collector and the superintendent should have taken cognisance of the complaint.
But instead, the collector and the SP tried to suppress the case rather than investigating the matter and chose to threaten the complainants. As per the POSCO Act, in cases of sexual offence against a child, such inaction ought to be punishable, said Himanshu.
Meanwhile, we ought to ask ourselves what really ails our society when Adivasi girls are forced to tie rakhis on the same hands that rape, torture and molest them with impunity. What really ails our society, when one Kalluri – who has been accused by the NHRC for overseeing gang rapes of several Adivasi women – is invited to hoist the flag in a university on August 15.
There is a war that the state has declared on behalf of the corporates – to displace the Adivasis, to crush them, to annihilate them – to reach to the gems under their feet, which are worth trillions of dollars. Far from the farce of the state’s patriarchal ‘protection’ – these girls are in a struggle to protect their jal-jangal-zameen (water-forest-lands), their dignity and their right to exist.
This post is a part of my series #PoliticalIsPersonal on Youth Ki Awaaz that explores how an innocuous act like opening your house gates to someone has immense political echoes across the system. I plan on understanding the link between political thought and personal liberty and how the two almost always are at loggerheads.
Image used for representative purposes only.