Two recent incidents of crime should have shaken the nerve of the conscience of the Indian citizen, but they failed to do so.
In the first incident a girl named Sanjali, returning from school was allegedly caught by some men and burnt alive in broad daylight. As it is clear that the school ends in the daytime, obviously it all happened in the day. It happened in Agra. No arrests have been done as it is said to be a blind case, having no witnesses at all. Surprisingly, the parents have been repeatedly denying that they have enmity with anybody. After a thorough investigation, it came out that a few months ago some miscreants had attacked Sanjali’s father, hurting his head. But he did not pay attention considering it only as an act of everyday crime. After a few months, his daughter was burnt alive by dousing petrol, the witness of which was borne by none.
In the second incident, another girl was burnt alive by dousing her in petrol in Uttarakhand. It showed an advanced level of brutality. In this case, the criminals did not just pour petrol and set the girl on fire, but they also dared to call her parents and challenge them if they could save her.
These two incidents of crime happened just within two days. There are many common factors in both these cases. Some common factors are that both were school going girls. They were both burnt alive with petrol. If we will go a little ahead, we find both are from the same kind of sociological background. These are the common factors which match too often. But the most surprising factor is that both of these incidents failed to shake the conscience of the people of this country, thus no arrests have been made so far.
Anyway, I began to mull over the fact that why such brutal crimes do not shake the conscience of the people of this country. I came to conclude that it is not the fault of the common people at large who are not shaken by such crimes. In fact, they are shaken when they come to know. But the question remains, when do they come to know?
They, the common people of India, come to know of such crimes only when it happens to some specific set of people and background. For example, when a similar incident happened in Delhi in December 2012, it attracted so much attention from the international community that a new party, Aam Aadmi Party, was not just formed but came to the power in the first attempt. Not only this, the Justice Verma Committee was formed and some recommendations were made, a foreigner came to stay in India just to make a movie on this incident titled as India’s Daughter drawing immense criticisms of the right-wing. The most relieving aspect of all was that despite being a blind case, all perpetrators were caught and sent to jail. Every year, 16 December is remembered as the Nirbhaya Day and candlelight marches take place in her memory.
Before we could get the perpetrators of the rape and murder of Nirbhaya punished, more crimes of brutal rapes and murders were carried out. It is totally clear that such crimes happening with dalits are not going to harm any political situations, so no justice seems to be seen to be delivered. Even criminals know that they can not just move around safely, but also be protected even if caught later on.
Why are such crimes happening with dalits and other marginalized continuously? It is a question which has never been discussed as much as it is required. In the public domain, some people blame the government, some people blame the police and most of the people blame the victims only. In sum, the situation is grim and the general mindset towards the weak is hostile. Police neither reach the place where an atrocity happens promptly nor do they take an interest until dalits gain political power.
Different people give different replies in response as to why does the hostility towards dalits never diminish? One set of people smartly try to push the whole concern of dalits and the persistence of caste under the carpet by simply concluding that it is just a matter of patriarchy. They argue that some people drag casteism into such cases of crime. It is the dalits who are making an unnecessary hue and cry to seek attention, and so on.
Another set of people hold the view that since dalits do not have political power they should struggle to achieve the political power, and thereafter the crimes against them will automatically stop. But such people never specify what exactly they mean by ‘achieving political power’? Because, if winning elections or becoming the Chief Minister is synonymous with the achievement of political power, then many times upper castes also remain out of political power but they are still not subjected to such brutal crimes against their women in comparison to dalits or people coming from marginalized sections.
It is this exhibition of unshakeable conscience of the so-called most conscious citizens of India which has forced me to rethink as to how long such brutality will fail to shake them up from their slumber.
Dharmaraj Kumar is doing PhD at the Centre of Indian Languages, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org