As fellow Savari members started to mobilize on facebook and email in response to Asha Kowtal’s call to support the Mashaal Rally, I joined the protesters on August 31st. We reached the venue at 6 pm. It was still daylight then and the mashaals had not yet been lit. A small crowd had already gathered and through the evening, the crowd kept growing.
The Mashaal Rally was a continuation of the protests at Baniya Kheda, Haryana, where the girl’s family and villagers have been protesting since they found her mutilated body.
I was able to see at close quarters the community coming together in grief and pain, urging the rest of the public to join them as a part of the human community that is outraged by the disrespect shown to a raped and murdered girl.
The rally started with speeches by various dalit women and other activists, which included Vimal Thorat, Rajni Tilak, Anita Bharti, Rajender Gautam, Manisha Devi, AIDWA representative, Kalyani Menon Sen, Annie Namala, Indu Agnihotri, Lenin, Vijay Baudh, Paul Divakar, Rajat Kalsan, Beena Pallical and Prasad Sirivella. All of them spoke about the callousness of the police and the administration in this case. They all tried to connect this to the many rapes that have been continuously happening in Haryana.
I am very shocked and numbed by how all institutions – from police to hospital staff to media and civil society are implicated in this terrible tragedy. It clearly shows how society treats its most vulnerable, in life and in death. However, after any such brutal rape and murder, all attempts are focused on protecting the murderers and rapists. Like in the case of the Delhi rape protests, no one cries for the blood of the rapists. Instead, there is total silence and the police and others help them to escape.
Following the speeches, the mashaals and candles were passed around and we started lighting them one by one. I too was given a mashaal which I held with the prayer that justice will come to my sisters someday. The whole place resounded with our slogans: ‘We want justice’, ‘Haryana Sarkar down down’, ‘Hooda tere teen naam, luchcha, gunda, beimaan (Hooda, you have three names – loafer, goonda and dishonest’) ‘Baba tera misson adhoora, Hum sab milke karenge poora’. As Asha Kotwal led the rally with her loud ‘Jai jai jai Bheem’, we also shouted unitedly – Jai bheem jai Bheem’.
We had been given permission to march up to the parliament area. However, we were stopped in the middle by the police as we were marching. For a long time there were arguments between the protestors and the police. Some of the protestors climbed the barricades and shouted the slogans from there –’Delhi police hai hai’. We clapped our hands keping the rhythm repeating – ‘Hai hai hai hai’.
I watched at close quarters senior dalit women leaders like Rajni Tilak, Prof Vimal Thorat lead from the front, while co-ordinating with their younger colleagues Asha Kowtal, Beena Johson, Ajitha, Manisha Devi and others. I saw writers, filmmakers, academics, activists and students join this march. I would like to thank Asha Kowtal especially for making this protest visible to the larger public. It was also a time to meet so many Savari members located in Delhi who joined the Mashaal Rally.
Some of the dalit leaders from various organizations dedicated to human rights issues of Dalits that I could recognize were: Prof Vimal Thorat, Anita Bharti, Rajni Tilak, Rajender Gautam (Samta Sainik Dal) Vijay Baudhh, Advocate Rajat Kalsan, Manisha Devi from Haryana, Paul Divakar, Prasad Sirivella, representatives from AIDWA, WSS, Suneeta from Jagori and Dr. Ajita representing WSS Jawahar – Dalit leader in Jhuggi Jhopdi Ekta Manch, representatives.
As dusk falls mashaals arrive
Vinayakala and other dalit women activists protest with mashaals, placards. A protest stretching way back into our histories
Anger, grief, mourning and determination to change this wretched society’s heritage of caste and gender oppression
Writer and activist Anita Bharathi with the protesters. Anger, grief, mourning and determination to change this wretched society’s heritage of caste and gender oppression
Manisha Devi, dalit woman leader and co-ordinator of AIDMAM, Haryana addresses the Mashaal Rally, she speaks of this Jind case and the dozens of gang rape cases of dalit women in Haryana that she has been documenting for more than a year
Prof Vimal Thorat, Asha Kowtal, Deepika and others assess the situation as the police barricade the path of the Mashaal rally
Deepika and fellow protesters demand the removal of barricades
Dalit, Bahujan and Adivasi women protesters seeking justice and protesting the negligence for the raped and murdered dalit girl
One more brutality, one more scar on the wound ravaged history of the dalit community. Yet another brutality of this modern caste society
~ My final words of advice to you are Educate, Agitate and Organize; have faith in yourself. With justice on our side I do not see how we can lose our battle. The battle to me is a matter of joy. The battle is in the fullest sense spiritual. There is nothing material or social in it. For ours is a battle not for wealth or for power. It is a battle for freedom. It is a battle for the reclamation of the human personality. ~ Dr. B. R. Ambedkar
Rajni Tilak addresses the Mashaal Rally
Caste discrimination in the way dalit rape victims are treated. This case is a blatant demonstration of caste discrimination by all institutions, the police, the hospital staff, the political leaders and the civil society towards a dead rape and murdered victim. Open your eyes!
A Mashaal Rally for the gross negligence and apathy towards the rape and murder of a dalit girl from Haryana
We demand our right to be safe. We demand our rights to be not disrespected. We demand our rights to be full citizens, while alive and dead
Grief in our hearts, rage in our voice, steely determination in our stance
Ajith Kumar A S, filmmaker and writer from Kerala and and Aneesh Kumar (EFLU) from Dalit Camera team at the Mashaal rally
Stop Caste Discrimination
Mashaals for a caste and gender oppressive society
Images courtesy: Rupesh Kumar and Jenny Rowena.
Vinayakala Korvi is a PhD Scholar in Delhi University and a member of SAVARI.