Trigger warning: Mention of sexual violence
What excuse do we have this time? Yet again, a girl has been raped and murdered. Have we not changed after the gruesome death of Nirbhaya and all the other heinous incidents of rape and harassment that followed? Wasn’t the verdict of the Nirbhaya case expected to bring a wave of social change? But here we are again, with the same blame-game yet another time, from judiciary to the laws and society. It is not for the first time that a Dalit girl has been brutally raped.
Many of those living in their dream-like, egalitarian world would still have questions about why we need to mention the girl’s caste when they think this ladder of social hierarchy has been long dismantled. But it very much exists and is influential in society. Well, to no one’s surprise, people from Dalit communities are placed at the bottom of this social hierarchy, having faced humiliation and oppression for years.
Now, with the Hathras case, one realises that Dalit women further discriminated and oppressed by one more degree, because of their gender. These women have undergone severe caste discrimination, which has led to cases of extreme violence and heinous atrocities. A member of the Dalit community is denied a voice in the mainstream and opportunities to find financial stability. This amplifies their exposure to violence and harassment. We claim ourselves to be growing and evolving in our ethics and mindset. But the truth remains that all of it might be changing at a very slow pace, even among literate populations.
It is important to not let the experiences of Dalits fade from mainstream media because it’ll lead to the police and political system denying fair representation to the Hathras girl’s family. Because of their marginalised position within the social hierarchy, their family is more oppressed and less privileged than the family of the alleged culprits. Clearly, it is easier to hush their voices.
A 19-year-old Dalit girl was raped and the police forcibly burnt her body without informing the family. Since the culprits were above in social hierarchy, they will now have some sort of social capital to get away without any strict punishment.
Further, let’s get into India being considered one of the best democracies in the world, with its appreciable Constitution. Looking at all that is happening around us, our democracy seems to be in a crisis. The Indian Constitution guarantees fundamental rights to every citizen. Additionally, it has laws in place to protect minority communities from oppression and help them in their upliftment. But it seems as if these laws are only meant to exist in writing. To list a few following are the rights and acts:
In the Hathras case, the victim has not received protection through these Acts so far and suffered at the hands of the state. And yet, we say women from all backgrounds are safe and have equal opportunities.
We blame the society, but the society is us.
For yet another time, we are caught in a never-ending spiral of questions: what makes this happen?, where do we go wrong?, whom do we put the blame on?, while we as society blame the criminals, what must not be forgotten is that it is we who form the society. We are the ones who put ethics and social attitude in place.
We say casteism is dead, but it is very much prevalent within our lives. In order to bring attention to it, it is casteism when we keep separate utensils to serve water or food to our house help or the man who collects garbage from your home. Because the Hathras girl belonged to a marginalised community, political institutes are more inclined towards the culprits, and this mindset of even those educated from reputed institutions who do not have any meaningful opinion to offer sums up the existing situation of 2020 quite well. This brings to forefront the amount of work yet to be done by our laws and society.