Gujarat Erupts With Protests After Gang-rape And Murder Of Dalit Woman

Posted: January 11, 2020
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A number of protests are taking place in Gujarat after the gruesome gang-rape and murder of a 19-year-old Dalit woman came to light. Will this ever stop?

As India awaits the hanging of the Nirbhaya rapists that is scheduled on 22nd January 2020, the gravity of sexual violence scenario hits us again.

As per several news reports a 19-20 years old woman went missing on January 1. She was found  hanging from a tree in Gujarat’s Saira village of Modasa Taluka in Aravalli district on Sunday, January 5.

Soon after her disappearance her family approached the local police to lodge a complaint and allegedly, the police refused to do so. It is now being alleged as a case of gang rape and a caste crime perpetrated by upper caste men against a Dalit woman.

Police refused register an FIR

The family alleges that there was delay in lodging the FIR. And that four upper caste men raped and killed the girl before hanging her body on a tree to stage it to look like a suicide.

Ahmedabad has seen a number of protests demanding justice for the victims and are demanding justice and action on the police for negligence. Social media users across the country are also demanding justice for the case. Twitter was abuzz about it with related hashtags trending to the point where Dalit activist Dilip Mandal changed his handle to the hashtag itself.

The police arrested all the accused and an investigation is underway, even though the initial case registered was that of “accidental death.”

How caste and rape intersect

According to India’s National Crime Records Bureau NCRB), more than four Dalit women are raped every day in India. The NRCB’s 2014 statistics say crime against Dalits rose 19 percent. In many of the cases, these crimes are committed by upper caste perpetrators.

What is ironic is that these people, who are often deemed ‘untouchable’ by the upper case communities in the villages, especially these women are the most vulnerable targets for sexual abuse.  They aren’t just vulnerable to abuse at their own houses at the hands of the men there but also outside the house by stronger social classes.

Most often these women come from poor and powerless families. And hence most cases never see the light of the justice system. Quite often they are hushed up at the community level itself.

Researchers and analysts are of the opinion that sexual violence crimes that involve marginalised groups like the Dalits rarely receive enough public empathy and media attention. These groups are, quite often, at the bottom of the social hierarchy in addition to being economically disempowered too.

Caste and class rivalries are often settled by sexual crimes and the women from these vulnerable groups suffer the most. A rape in India becomes a multi-pronged tool of oppression due to the intersection of religion, caste and class. All this not only shapes the public debate and opinion but often even directs the ultimate fate of such cases. 

Does power equal rape?

A 2014 report by Amnesty International states that, “Members of dominant castes are known to use sexual violence against Dalit women and girls as a political tool for punishment, humiliation and the assertion of power.”

Candle marches, protests and demands of death penalty often surge at every such crime. But sadly in spite of new laws after the Nirbhaya case in 2012 sexual crimes haven’t ceased or reduced.

The caste system is supposed to be approximately 3000 years old by many scholars. It isn’t surprising that it still defines the responses of the Indian society about crimes as heinous as this one or the Kathua case.

City wise crime and the outrage

Yet another thing that is sad about the sexual violence cases is how they catch the public attention. And how promptly or aptly the law enforcement agencies act also varies according to the location of the case.

One such example that can be taken is the recent Hyderabad rape case. The victim was a city doctor and the outrage was at a totally different scale than how it was the unknown common girls. Girls who face similar violence away from the power centres.

The mainstream media, alternative media, individual activists and NGOs, none reach the cases like this one from the fringes. Hence people have no resort but to lead their own campaigns and protests for the same.

Rape is the worst kind of violence against a woman and a survivor from any group or community must get equal attention, support and justice.

Picture credits: Pixabay

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Pooja Priyamvada is a columnist, professional translator and an online content and Social Media consultant.

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