India recorded an average of 87 rape cases every day in 2019 and 4,05,861 cases of crimes against women during the year – a rise of over seven per cent from 2018. Out of the total 32,033 reported rape cases in the year, 11 per cent were from the Dalit community (NCRB,2019). In that, the state such as Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan has shown the highest caste-based violence cases. The different forms of atrocities are taking place where violence is highly normalized by both Upper caste Men and Women. The common forms of violence happen on Marginalised women where they are insulted in public, sexually exploited, sexually harassed, shaved hair in public, beat them, insult women and make them wear Slippers garland and kalik potaya jata hai! (forcefully painted their faces by black colour) which is a symbol of shame in the Hindu caste society and are forcefully made to roam around the village. The caste entrenched society is so rigid and shameful that no one speaks against such openly committed crime. The Savarana feminist in India speaks alot about equality and equal rights for everyone then why are they being so caste blind now?Giving death threats, heinous and brutal crimes such as rapes, acid attacks have also become very common nowadays on Dalit women. The question which needs to be thought deeper is what makes the “‘So-Called” Upper caste Man to commit such horrifying crimes and the Savarna women to not speak against such crimes happening against other women? What makes them commit such brutal crimes? Who gives them such power and where this power is coming from? Are they not afraid of the constitution?
The violence against Dalit women has not been even properly challenged in any form of Judiciary. In India states like Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan have seen a rise in sexual violence as a tool of oppression against Dalit communities. Of all the reported rape cases in Uttar Pradesh, 18 per cent victims are Dalit women, almost double of that in Rajasthan (9 per cent) (IndiaToday,2020). The entire data shows how the violence against women has increased in these 2 years and specifically violence against Dalit women. The work of the government is to protect individuals human rights and maintain peace and harmony of all communities living together. Has the government for centuries really been doing so? The data shows clearly the caste-based atrocities and Crime against women and specifically Dalit Women has increased tremendously fearlessly in these 2 years. What are major necessary actions the current government has taken to ensure crime against women and specifically crime against SC and ST women to stop?
This narrow minded, blind, patriarchal government has supported the normalization of violence which is happening in U.P. since long and has lead to the recent Hathras gang rape case. The rape incident of September 14, at 9am, Asha (name changed) a Dalit women walked into the field with her mother and brother to do manual labor in the fields of Chandpa, Hathras. The brother went back home, barely 200 meters from the fields, to give water to their buffaloes. Manisha’s mother, who has a hearing impairment, was busy in the field. Something didn’t feel right and she started looking for her daughter. She called her name but couldn’t see her anywhere. She was agitated that her daughter left without informing her. As she started to walk towards the house, she noticed her daughter’s slipper and she followed the trail. What she saw took away the earth under her feet. Her daughter was lying there, bleeding from her vagina and her tongue had been cut out. Her neck was broken and there was blood around her eyes. Poor mother couldn’t put herself together. She started screaming for help and covered her daughter with her saree. Asha’s mother thought her daughter was dead but she noticed her slow breathing. Due to her cut tongue she mumbled, “Sandeep (Thakur) choked me”. Asha was gang-raped by four Thakur caste men who lived just across the house ofValmikis. The crime did not stop here. The U.P. Police do not file her complaint for a week. She has been sent to the government hospital where facilities were also not being provided properly. And without informing the parents her body was burnt by the District Magistrate of Uttar Pradesh. Which is also a crime. Then suddenly in U.P. the government put section 144 in the Hathras area. There were barricades around the house of the victim’s family. No one is allowed to enter their house and neither are the people inside the house allowed to go outside. They are jailed in their own house..What kind of democracy the Dalit women are living in?
After Hathras there have been 18 more rape cases reported under four days in the state of UP and Madhya Pradesh. This helplessness made me think what PranaliYenge said ”Who am I?/ My consciousness/ makes me human/ and my thoughts build my identity/ until ‘that’ news in the newspaper/ calls out to the Dalit identity in me/ The ‘woman’ in me is shaken/ by the wounds created by breaking the ligaments of her body/ The casteist beasts cut out her tongue/ and here I feel helpless silence/ My liberating thoughts fall apart in that moment/ They are tainted by the cage of caste/ and the helplessness of my femininity/ And here I keep on asking,/ Who am I?/ An oppressed Dalit, a suppressed woman,/ Or a human with free will?” (Y. Pranali,2020)
There is a different aspect to look towards the crime. When a woman from a dominating caste gets raped the justice system works differently under the power of masculinity. She gets media coverage, Mahila Aayog takes cognizance of the case, the judiciary system gets under pressure to give her justice. While in the case of a Dalit woman it works completely different. The discrimination starts from the point of filing the complaint in the police station. It takes days/weeks/months to file a rape complaint. After fighting a lot even if the case has been registered the entire family members along with the survivor are beaten up and tortured to withdraw the case. The shreds of evidence are destroyed or they are not made to reach till the court. The politics of caste is played completely differently by the dominating caste. Dalit women are regarded as impure, while at the same time, their bodies are used as a medium of rage/punishment against the community. Many of the “So-called upper caste” feminist writer, Celebrities tweeted this as another Nirbhaya. But actually, it is not another Nirbhaya. This is not the rape and murder of just a woman. She is a Dalit Women. Let that get straight; she is a Dalit woman. But, until when? It is the history of the upper cast privileged population. But, the question is how can a system behave so inhuman?
On 29 September 2006, four members of a Dalit family were murdered in Khairlanji, a village of fewer than two hundred families in Bhandara district of Maharashtra, not far from Nagpur city. Sujata (name changed) and her daughter Mira (name changed) (17) were stripped, battered, paraded naked, raped several times and killed by a Hindu mob led by men of the Kunbi-Maratha caste goaded by the entire village. Sujata’s sons Rahul (name changed) (21) and Suraj (name changed) (19) were also tortured and murdered for trying to save their mother and sister. There was not a single piece of cloth on the body. There were wounds on the body. Similarly, the brothers also had marks of severe beating on their bodies. Sujata’s skull was broken. Her brain had spilled out from it. She had even lost one eye. Only Prakash (name changed) survived, watching the lynching and rape hiding behind a bush. (Navayana, 2006). It took years to get justice. The entire family died and recently in 2017 the father also died and yet the justice has not reached. What can one say to this justice system?
Another case in Andhra Pradesh. The dominant caste groups of the village, the Reddys and the Kapus, and the Dalits have been vying against and accusing each other of several small crimes prior to this incident. This led to a social boycott of the Dalits enforced by the Reddys and Kapus, which disallowed them from entering the ‘upper caste locality’ and from working in their fields. In about a month, on August 6th, this escalated into a full-blown massacre of 8 Dalits (7 Malas and 1 Madiga) in broad daylight by Reddy and Kapu mobs from Tsundur, Valiveru, Modukuru and Munnangivaripalem. (FII, 2019). While the caste system has been formally abolished under the Indian Constitution, according to official statistics every eighteen minutes a crime is committed on a Dalit. The gouging out of eyes, the hacking off of limbs and being burned alive or stoned to death are routine in the atrocities perpetrated against India’s 170 million Dalits. What drives people to commit such inhuman crimes?
Of all crimes committed against the members of the Scheduled Castes, the highest are against Dalit women—the 2016 National Crime Records Bureau, the last data released nationally, show. Assaults on SC women to outrage her modesty, rapes, attempts to commit rapes and insults to the modesty of SC women consist of lion’s share of all cases against Dalits. Dalit women continue to be targeted because they are seen as the weakest of the weak.
The masculine power which comes to the so-called upper caste man is because of this caste hierarchy created by the Brahmanical structure and the freedom which is given to them to treat Dalit women as their sex objects. This structure has made the savarana women voiceless and inhuman too. Even they have forgotten the womanhood inside them. Therefore, feminism in India needs to be restructured. It is meaningless if the women from oppressed communities are not heard equally and claim space. Your feminism isn’t feminism if it isn’t inclusive of Dalit and other oppressed communities women, then it’s just upper caste privilege. When generation to generation drive up Dalit women like a free property, where they have to spend their whole life without self-respect, no dignity of life and as a slave to serve for the dominating caste, it is a crime to be born as a Dalit woman, it’s a crime to born in the hierarchy which is made and named by the dominating caste to enjoy pleasures on the bodies of the lower caste women.
In 1989 The Constitution amended the Scheduled Castes and Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act to protect the broken classes from such bloodthirsty, brutal, murderous crimes happening on them. Yet, crimes on the Dalit women are still the same just the pattern has changed. The rigidness of caste in the mind of the upper caste is still the same. Therefore, it is important not only to have stronger laws but the government has to work on it with different strategies to aware individuals to create casteless society. But, for all this to happen the oppressed communities need to come into power. It’s crucial for the Dalit, Adivasi women, Transgender and the queer people to take up the leadership because they are the best representatives of themselves. Such spaces also need to be created through stronger acts and laws so that such crimes can be at least reduced to a major extent in society. Parties need to give special reservations for women and queer people so that they too can get stage from the primary stage to come up in the higher decision making bodies. But, the irony is that most of the parties in India are headed by the Upper caste man and they do not want to share their power with the women. To bring out the voices of the people from the most marginalised section of the society, India needs free, unbiased, questioning journalism even more as it faces multiple crises. Therefore, this is the time the Dalit, Adivasi and all other oppressed communities women, queer people, men need to come together. The system needs a strong push back wave and power of resistance to reconstruct this society where individuals from all caste and gender can stay safely. This is enough of slavery and brutal violence the Oppressed women have gone though. We the Dalit, Adivasi- women, transgender and queer are the one who can free ourselves from this Brahmanical slavery of suppression but no one else.
Ravali, (2019). The Tsundur Massacre of Dalit of 1991 #DalitHistoryMonth
https://feminisminindia.com/2019/04/30/tsunduru-massacre-dalits/MAcquitted in Tsundur Dalit m.assacre case of 1991 get busy campaigning
M. Sudipto, (2014). ‘Acquitted in Tsundur Dalit massacre case of 1991 get busy campaigning’
Navayana,(2017). ‘The entire village was involved, sir. Entire village’https://navayana.org/blog/2017/01/22/the-entire-village-was-involved-sir-entire-village-bhaiyalal-bhotmange/?v=c86ee0d9d7ed
Y.Jyoti,(2020).’ Dalit woman raped and murdered in Hathras died another death in UP Police’s forced cremation’
She the People, (2020).’Hathras Rape Survivor is Another Nirbhaya. Why You Should Know Her’https://www.shethepeople.tv/news/who-is-manisha-valmiki-hathras-rape-case/
Y.Pranali,(2020).’Who am I? An oppressed Dalit, a suppressed woman?’
Harshali Nagrale is currently working as a School Academic Consultant at TSWREIS, Telangana. She’s a feminist writer and an independent researcher on gender and education.