” The ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by the bad people but the silence over that by the good people” -Dr. Martin Luther King
Imagine yourself living in a community where daughters disappear and as you are frantically searching them, you find their lifeless bodies hanging from a tree in your neighborhood. When you go to the police to complain, they assault you further. Worse, the Head of the Government shows no sympathy towards this routine violence against women. This is exactly what is happening in Dalit communities– a population that is considered the lowest ranked in India’s age-old caste system.
It is no secret that abused women in India face hostility at every stage, be it uncooperative reaction of the police, or the tardiness of the judicial process. For a Dalit woman in India, these obstacles are worse than one can imagine. Particularly in the state of Uttar Pradesh, upper caste assailants are protected by the caste power (Yadav domination) encouraged by the fact that Samajwadi Party– led by the Yadavs- is in Government right now. Not many weeks ago, Party Chief Mulayam Singh Yadav openly ‘endorsed’ rape by stating “Boys will be boys, they make mistakes”. Recently, when a female journalist asked about Dalit girls being routinely assaulted, one expected during such a crisis, the young Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh Akhilesh Yadav would be more sympathetic towards victims , yet, he shocked all by retorting “Aren’t you safe? You’re not facing any danger, are you?” We ponder what he was trying to imply- perhaps warning the lady journalist that she should thank her lady luck that she is safe – whatever these father-son meant- it clearly demonstrates the Government’s apathy towards Dalit women.
Last week, we witnessed two girls hanging from a tree (Badaun gangrape), and we were all left speechless with horror. This case got noticed, however, there are thousands of such crimes against young Dalit girls that go unnoticed. Recently, a bunch of so-called “upper caste” men barged into a house and raped a girl. When the mother rejected to withdraw her case, she was brutally beaten up and stripped. While Badaun case was still in news, another Dalit teenage girl was gang-raped in Azamgarh, again the constituency of Mulayam Singh Yadav, last week. And thousands of such stories of young Dalit girls being assaulted go unnoticed and unpunished.
Let me bring politics in this case. 2017 Assembly election is not that far away. Any party that claims to care about women, Dalits or social justice, will now start showing huge interest in this case. Congress leader Rahul Gandhi has already reached the village to provide strength and solidarity to the families of the victims. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has already strongly criticized to demonstrate his government’s “zero tolerance” approach towards crime against women. Dalit leader Mayawati, who has not been lucky to get Dalit votes lately, has also reached the village and was too enthusiastic to tell the media how she convinced victims’ families to accept the compensation provided by her Party (Earlier, families rejected compensation offered by the State Government). These moves, as desperate as they look, send a signal that several political Parties have started their groundwork for 2017 Assembly elections in the state. Whatever the intention of the politicians are, we need to understand that only sustained political action can help the Dalit families by keeping up pressure on the State Government. Taking this as an opportunity, it is time for us to raise voice for the better future of millions of Dalit girls.
In the past, we have raised voice against such atrocities against women. When Nirbhaya was brutally assaulted, we were shattered, maybe because that incident happened so close to our home. We were angry, hurt and we protested together. Today, the government has passed some strict anti-rape laws because of our protest. The Criminal Law Ordinance 2013, promulgated due to Nirbhaya Case, provides for the death penalty in cases of rape. Lynching of lifeless bodies of Dalit girls clearly demonstrates that there was casteism, and shows a blatant disregard for a Dalit life. Dalits have faced brutal oppression in India for thousands of years, and they still face it. With no public campaigns for justice for them, Dalit oppression has become a dark reality of our democracy. We do not know how many such heinous crime of violence against Dalit girls have gone unpunished due to caste-cum-administrative power of assailants.We now know that such violence against Dalit girls exists in its most atrocious form. It is time for us to widen our circle of concern and raise our voice against such caste-based violence that exists in the world’s biggest democracy. It is time for us to get angry once again so we protest and condemn such brutal acts. Let the world know that we care for the poor.
Spread the words, my friends!