ABOUT two weeks ago, a 20 year old woman was found abandoned; naked and bleeding in Hathras, a district in western Uttar Pradesh. She was gang raped by men living in the same area. She succumbed to her injurious and passed away on the 29th of this month.
Her death has invited some uproar and rightly so. However, the outrage in itself is emblematic of one of the main causes of her fate — caste based violence.
She belonged to the Dalit Valmiki caste and the prime accused are from the upper caste Takhur community. Throughout the ordeal that she and her family were put through, there were severe lapses committed by the police and rape was only registered after political pressure built up and after the formal statement by the woman. The family was allegedly even denied the right to have the body of the victim and the police went ahead and burned her body without the consent from her family.
The uproar and the rage that the case has generated is limited and uncritical in that it refuses to take into account the factor of caste. While it is true that rape is a crime against women, it must also be kept in mind that it is essentially a power based violence.
In this schema, it is insensitive to ignore the angle of caste; a system of hierarchy and discrimination that still plagues the Indian society. Dalits still face systemic caste based violence in India. How then can we conveniently ignore the intersection of caste and gender in this case?
It is about time that progressive liberals stop this deleterious denial of the existence of caste system in India. Upper caste feminists need to re-evaluate essentialist categories like “women” and take into account the matrix of identities of women from marginalised groups. Women in conflict zones like Kashmir, or women from Muslim, Dalit, Adivasi communities are not merely victims of gender based violence. In our case, the perils of power come together, enable violence of a colossal degree and unleash this confluence on our bodies. Denying this confluence, is denying the existence of this marginalisation and ultimately sides with the perpetrator’s persuasions rather than the victim’s.
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