For the last few months I’ve been noticing that sections of the media, especially those that are usually loathe reporting on caste or mentioning dalits, have started vehemently using the phrase “Dalit Atrocity” to describe crimes against them. There are also some oppressor caste communists using this phrase with abandon. This is perplexing in its entirety to me. How can a crime committed on or against someone be their crime?
I’ve written to India Today‘s editor when I first noticed the phrase on twitter calling to attention the folly of attributing a heinous noun – atrocity – to dalits who are the survivors of it. I received no answer to my email in spite of calling attention of multiple editors and their handles on twitter.
I’m not a media graduate or even a English major nor do I have any experience working with large media houses and dealing with editorial lines, so correct me if I’m wrong, but when an ill or a crime is described as being committed, the perpetrator is the one that it is attributed to, not the victim or survivor. Such as a burglar’s burglary and not a homeowner’s burglary, a pickpocket’s theft not the unsuspecting victim’s theft, a rapist’s rape and not that of the survivor’s.
How is it that this very sensitive and common norm of being sensitive to the victims is abandoned when it comes to reporting heinous atrocities committed ON the scheduled castes and tribes – collectively called dalits BY the oppressor castes? Why such a level of dehumanization of dalits that even a common courtesy extended to all humanity is not available to them?
How come it’s not an OPPRESSOR CASTE ATROCITY or a BRAHMIN ATROCITY or a PATEL ATROCITY or a CASTEIST ATROCITY or even a tempered down BRAHMINICAL ATROCITY or just plain CASTE ATROCITY if not “WHATEVER CASTE or GROUP ATROCITY” of stripping or raping or beating or flogging or otherwise humiliating any dalits? How come only the dalits get labeled with the caste denominator and the title of the crime?
Are dalits committing these atrocities? Are dalits committing humiliating atrocities on themselves or are the oppressor castes in UNA and other places committing them on Dalits? Are dalits committing atrocities on themselves to label crimes against them as ‘Dalit Atrocity’? Are dalits exploiting themselves or committing casteism , caste based humiliation, caste based discrimination, caste based violence or caste based sexual violence on themselves that they then end up suffering for? Is there no perpetrator but the dalits themselves? How is it that in crimes and indeed atrocities committed against dalits the narrative pushed is that they themselves are committing these atrocities by using misleading and dehumanizing phrases like “Dalit Atrocity”? Why are the perpetrators given such a leeway that they can commit atrocities and get away with it because no one’s going to attribute those atrocities to them.? Instead, the atrocities are going to be attributed to the victims or survivors under the label of “dalit atrocity”, regardless of whether the perpetrators of such atrocities are Brahmins or Patels or ABVP students or oppressor caste vice chancellors?
Priyadarshini’s letter to India Today
I would like to understand what the editorial standards of Indian journalism and editorials are. This perpetual cycle of injustice to those denied, and immunity to the perpetrators needs to be stopped. Is our fourth estate that debased, that even in claiming to be an “activist media” they continue to perpetrate structural injustice upon the oppressed? By hiding discussion about caste, not naming the castes of the perpetrators but naming those of the oppressed, by using misleading titles, using words like Italy’s fascism instead of coming to the point with India’s brahminism, denying atrocities committed by oppressor castes on dalits by claiming those are in fact dalit atrocities?
I would think misattributing a criminal noun to a victim of a crime is not just shoddy but yellow journalism that borders on criminal. After all which newspaper or serious weekly or monthly will get away with calling a victim of a rape as a rapist? And why should these callous rags pretending to be news media be allowed to get away with characterising a whole group that is oppressed as some mythical “self oppressors” with no one else to blame? After all, why can’t they just tell the truth and label these news pieces as Atrocities on Dalits which is what they are, instead of calling them “Dalit Atrocities” thus misleading and setting up further victimization?
If I were to paint a victim or survivor as a perpetrator the only reason I would do it is because I favour the perpetrator or I don’t want to represent them unfavorably, because I consider the victim expendable in the project of saving the perpetrator, because I am negligent, because I do not think the victim of the crime deserves relief, out of malice towards the victim or survivor
Journalists and news media propagating the lie under the label of “Dalit Atrocity” are in fact maliciously colluding with the time held tradition of Brahminical India to misrepresent all narratives on caste and casteism and make invisible any atrocities committed by those that benefit from the pyramid scam caste system of exploitation.
If there are any democratic ethics remaining in Indian journalism, the phrase “Dalit Atrocity” should be abandoned herewith as extremely prejudicial and any news articles with such titles or hashtags should be edited to reflect the reality of atrocities on dalits.
One of the main reasons I object to this twisted title “Dalit Atrocity” is because the word “Dalit” is a common noun. It comes from the word “dalita” meaning the oppressed. So it recognizes that there is oppression and the oppressed castes exist. It doesn’t recognize a particular caste but is a title for the Scheduled Castes and Tribes. I prefer to define them as survivors of oppression. Indeed, I think, they are one of the worst oppressed and subject to holocaust groups in the world for the longest time by an illogical and uncivilized pyramid scam invented by the worst of mankind. We have not only survived but within less than a century of enforced civility, through equality of opportunity, some of us are actually beginning to flourish. So I see us as the people who cannot just resist or struggle against or beat oppression but also the people who can flourish in spite of it. That is what being a dalit means to me.
But then here they come, with another noun, to add to the noun dalit. Somehow the title is now “Dalit Atrocity.” I’m a dalit and you are throwing this title dalit atrocity at me now. So are you calling me atrocious? Or accusing me of committing atrocities on myself? Or are the atrocities committed by the oppressor castes on my people, dalit by their heinous nature? In which case are those that use the phrase “Dalit Atrocity” trying to redefine the word dalit from oppressed to heinous and violent? Exactly what are the editors of these dailies and newspapers trying to tell me? I say it is offensive. It is insensitive. It is negligent and dehumanizing. It is probably intentionally malicious. It is capable of marginalization of already marginalized groups. It borders on malice to title a group of oppressed people as an Atrocity. This is extremely low standards for the fourth estate, the very people who are supposed to prevent this from happening and safeguard the democratic principles – one of the chief amongst them being fraternity. Because as a fellow Indian, if you cared about me and my people, you would show me the basic human courtesy, consideration and sensitivity like you show any other victims and survivors. Instead you are calling us Atrocious.
Priyadarshini Ohol is an Artist and Activist fond of Adventure Sports. She used to be a businesswoman and one of her businesses was about writing.