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Why Can’t A Dalit Beti Be A “Desh Ki Beti” Too?!

A 9 year old Dalit girl was brutally raped and then possibly burnt alive by rapists from Oppressor Castes. As a Dalit woman, I ask, how dare anyone deny the caste angle to this brutality?

A 9 year old Dalit girl was brutally raped and then possibly burnt alive by rapists from Oppressor Castes. As a Dalit woman, I ask, how dare anyone deny the caste angle to this brutality?

I measure the progress of a community by the degree of progress which women have achieved. ~ Babasaheb Ambedkar

Trigger Warning: This has child sexual abuse, rape, and caste based violence against women, and may be triggering for survivors.

I remember the night, when the victim of the Hathras Rape Case was cremated forcefully against her family’s wishes. My Bahujan friends and I, we couldn’t sleep that night and few nights after that. The gross failure of justice shook everyone to the core.

The kind of casteist propaganda that transpired after that fateful night is something we all are well aware of.

A 9 year old Dalit girl gang raped and killed in Delhi Cantonment

Here are the bare facts of the case that happened in the Delhi Cantonment area. 4 Savarna men raped a 9 year old Dalit girl and burnt her (possibly alive), forcing this sham cremation of the child.

The parents have been silenced and arrested by the police.

The girl’s community started a sit down protest in the Nangal area of Delhi Cantt, but tweets are speaking of “now they’ll cause traffic disruptions” and “police clearing the way for Independence Day celebrations.”

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Today, I am not going to discuss the legal details of the Hathras Case, or even the latest, Delhi Cantt’s 9 year old girl child’s rape and murder. Instead, today I will talk about my anger, my frustration, and my hopelessness as a Dalit woman.

It makes us from Dalit-Bahujan-Adivasi communities, furious!

Many readers here will assume that cases like the Hathras Rape-Murder Case, the Delhi Cantt Rape-Murder Case are rare occurrences. Big words like haivaniyat, anyaya, etc might come to your mind. But for the Dalit community across the Indian subcontinent, such gross brutality is something we deal with regularly in our daily lives.

Most of the news of such inhuman atrocities against Dalits doesn’t even get reported. Had it not been for many devoted Dalit activists like Chandrashekhar Azad Ravan and reporters like Meena Kotwal, even the Delhi Cantt Rape-Murder case would have been brushed aside.

If we look at the data, on average, 10 daily cases of rape of Dalit women were reported last year in the country, with Rajasthan reporting the highest number at 554 cases. Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh followed with 537 and 510 rape cases respectively. The rate of such crimes (cases per lakh Dalit population) was 4.5 for both Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, Kerala with the rate of 4.6 cases per lakh population was first in the country.

One can clearly observe in the reporting of these cases that there are repeated attempts by the Savarna media and academia to manipulate the narrative from caste to gender. Many prominent Oppressor Caste (aka ‘Upper’ Caste) figures, including some prominent and well-known Oppressor Caste (Savarna) feminists, have been trying their best to divert the attention away from caste.

The casteist angle needs to be highlighted while reporting these stories

In any case of violence (sexual or otherwise), it is essential that the identity of the oppressor and the oppressed be highlighted upon. In an extremely casteist society like that we are living in, it’s a matter of urgency to identify the caste of the rapist (Oppressor) and the victim/survivor (Oppressed).

Compare the response of the popular media to this Delhi Cantt case with that to other rape cases where the victim/survivor has been from the Savarna community, and you will be able to easily identify the casteist nature of such biased reporting.

Also, media reporting is just one example I am using to highlight the biased treatment against Dalits. This caste-based violence is pervasive in everywhere. There is no space in Indian subcontinent which is not ruined by the caste-based discrimination practiced by the oppressor castes (aka the ‘Upper’ Castes). In fact, internationally also, wherever the Indian diaspora has moved to, they have very shamelessly carried their casteist legacy with them to those countries too. For reference, read the ongoing Cisco Case in the USA.

Article 21 of the Constitution of India guarantees dignity of life to everyone. Even dignity in death is ensured. But this ‘dignity’ is bestowed only upon the privileged Oppressor Castes. The 9 year old Dalit girl child, who was brutally raped and then burnt alive by the rapists from the Oppressor Castes, what about her dignity? Even in her death, her dignity was violated. What about the trauma inflicted upon her family and her entire community?

And I pose this question mainly to those anti-reservation Savarnas who try to gaslight the Bahujan community on the issue of affirmative action. For Oppressor Castes/Savarnas, the entire brutality of caste is just limited to how reservation is destroying their ‘merit’. This very notion of ‘merit’ is extremely casteist, racist, elitist and even misogynistic.

For all the casteist Savarnas, even the ones who claim to be ‘woke’ and ‘liberal’, I have only one question – is your humanity completely dead!? Do you have even an iota of shame left in you?

Introspect, and question your privilege

Finally, I request the Oppressor Castes to introspect and question their own privilege, and how they continue to benefit themselves at the cost of destroying innumerable Dalit lives.

Yes, you the Savarna reader reading this right now, you too are complicit in the oppression of Dalits. It’s not just your grandfather or any other ancestor of yours who destroyed my ancestors. It is you who are destroying me with your casteism, with your privileges. If you genuinely wish to be anti-caste, then show it in your action, not just your empty words. Take concrete actions to undo our oppression at your hands. Make sure you Savarnas do enough so that the Dalit community does not lose any more children to your caste-based brutality. Make sure that a Dalit child is just as much important for the nation as a Savarna child is.

Disclaimer – I am writing this article as a Dalit cis-gendered queer woman. The issue of sexual violence afflicts other marginalized identities similarly, but in this piece I have focused mainly on discussing the perspective of Dalit women.

Image source: shutterstock

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