“Sad, unfortunate and shameful”! These words are not enough to express our feelings and reactions to the gruesome act of violence that took place in Hathras. It is not the first and is not going to be the last. Neither is it a rare one. Many such cases go unnoticed since the affected are muted forever or they do not have the guts to speak for themselves. We must note that in spite of the nationwide protest against the Hathras incident, even now rapes are happening on a daily basis. According to Washington Post “In a country in which 87 rapes are reported every day on average, this incident has exposed how every institution in India – the police, the media and the politicians – has failed women.”
The girl was gangraped. It is highly condemnable. But what happened after that makes one feel that the entire system and the government machinery has become so cold blooded. Not only the girl, her entire family and all those who try to support them have been ‘raped’ again and again by the government machineries and their media. What happened was a clear violation of human rights from the part of those who are expected to safeguard them. The urge to delay the medical investigation in spite of the rule that it has to be done within 24 hours, the extra hurry in burning the girl’s body and all evidences along with it in the cover of darkness denying the relatives even the right to perform the last rituals, confining the family in their home, confiscating their phones, denying media personnel to reach them, arresting, ill-treating or stopping or even arresting with severe false charges political or NGO leaders and social activists from entering into the village, the district magistrate himself going to the house and threatening them… all prove that the authorities have no concern in such things happening to the girls of that community. Their concern was more on protecting the criminals and helping them go scot free. Because, according to them, the Dalit girls are ‘THEY’ and not ‘US’. They want to hide the fact in front of the world and make things look normal. They want to bury all types of evidence. They want to save the culprits because they are their people. Moreover, UP is a state ruled by a chief minister who once advocated that even the dead bodies of Muslim women should be dug out of the graves and raped. They belong to those who use rape as a political tool to disgrace and destroy their enemies or those whom they feel inferior to them. They think it is their birth right. So once again, like in many other cases, every attempt was made to normalize this heinous act. But what is more disturbing and frightening than this is the silence of many celebrities, political leaders, social activists and feminists. Their silence is loud and clear that all the slogans of empowerment, equality, liberty, justice etc. are not for everyone in the country but for a selected few. For them, some are more equal than others in front of the law. The very people who were in the forefront to protest after the Nirbhaya incident, are now in their dens. Why? We need to analyze.
Without treating the root cause, we cannot say that this will not happen again. Rather we need to be afraid that this is becoming the fashion and passion among the youth of certain communities especially in the Northern part of the nation. What is the real cause?
It is the caste system which makes people believe that some are born inferior to others and they don’t deserve equal status in society. It is due to the sins they committed in their previous birth. Hence, they have to undergo this state of life to get ‘moksha’ i.e. salvation. Even most of the educated among these communities believe that it is quite normal for them to be treated like this and they have no right to question their masters. They lack self-confidence and self-respect. The equal rights that the Constitution gives to every citizen, is not known to most of them and the few who know it have no guts to demand it. It is because the ideology is so deeply rooted in their minds and the so-called upper class leave no chance to remind them about this despicable existence. Cutting the tongue of the girl is an expression of the belief in their minds that these girls have no right to speak for themselves. The ancient scriptures which they use to prove them right tell that the lower castes have to serve the upper castes and they are untouchables. But it is to be noted that the caste distinction doesn’t give any special privileges to the women of the upper castes too. Due to the attempts by the framers of the Indian Constitution and many reformers, the clutches of this social evil was getting reduced in the second half of the 20th century but now, there are attempts to impose this belief system more strongly to ensure the supremacy of a particular caste over all others and the entire government machinery has been used for this purpose. To put it more clearly, the country is going back to the Manu era and this is what they call as Indian Culture. All those who oppose it, are branded as anti-nationals.
In short, it is needless to say that only by challenging this belief system which differentiates human beings and building confidence in the minds of every boy and girl of these communities by educating and strengthening them, this type of rapes and other atrocities can be stopped forever. We need to have introspection at individual and collective level to curb this gruesome evil. Let everyone work for a country where as Rabindra Nath said “the mind is without fear” for each citizen with no disparity in caste, colour, religion, region or language. Let us try for governments that work to this end which is the spirit of our Constitution and the very idea of India that it puts forward. Let agitations and protests continue until the country sees a new era of justice for everyone with no gender disparity. Let every home be a learning centre for boys to understand that real manhood lies in respecting and protecting women rather than seeing them as sex objects. Let youth organizations stand on their feet and say ‘Manishada’ to the savages. Let the slogans be so loud and clear to reach every citizen and shake the authorities who facilitate the enemies of our country and its constitutional values.
*The author is a social activist and Co-Secretary, the Jamaat-e-Islami Hind (Women’s Wing).