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Wednesday, 9 January 2013

For a rape ‘caste’ (does) matter in India

For a rape ‘caste’ (does) matter in India
“Women will not mind about the age of the person if she wants to have a sex.”[1]
 “She is only loves ornaments, money and clothes, full of sexual desire, betrayer, egoistic.”[2]
These are the famous ciphers encoded in the sacred text of Indian order that governed lives of millions throughout India.
Introduction
Recent protests across the capital and elsewhere amounted to gender consciousness among the Indian paradox society. Strikes and Dharna’s are result of successful democracy; these measures are adopted quite often by the unprivileged and encountered citizens of the world’s largest democracy. Apart from the women activists, young school going girls along with their parents, human rights activists, political parties took the floor to express solidarity towards the women’s present day condition. Feminists in India shine to the sabotaged situation of women in metro cities who are often harassed and working women in their offices facing sexual violence are often reported which get a nationwide media attentions. But this time, the reporting was quite influential it not only united women in one thread all across India but with organisations overseas.[3] International media reported India’s pity situation for weeks interviewing the young protestors who came to voice their grievances. Law makers in the parliament and off the parliament gave blatant statements as per their background and wisdom. Moreover, the Congress Member of the Parliament and son of the President of the Republic received media punishments after his “dented and painted” remarks. Some members from the opposition party in the house reclaimed their understanding towards rape, by asking girls to abandon skirts and follow the strict hours. Some right wings like Mohan Bhagwat got into the thread controversy by relating the incident to ‘India’ and not ‘Bharat’ to which their ideologue confronts. Some religious organisations demanded the cessation of co-education[4] to avoid the unwarranted consequences, some Hindu gurus like Asaram[5] blamed the girl equally responsible for the rape incident, some gurus turned politicians like Ramdev ordained 7-8 buses deployed in Delhi to report his protest. Opposition in the house condoned the violence and demanded a strict action against the alleged and some politicians like Jaya Bacchan in the upper house protested her appeal to the Honourable chairman of house by shedding tears. Bollywood celebrities remarked their solidarity with the anxiety by holding ‘Bollywood’ protests. From local to global, rape victims have been courted with affection towards society.
The following article will provide a critique on the recent Delhi rape protests, explaining the role of each participant and their selfish interests in the current glamour of social enlightenment. It will highlight the stand of religious leaders on rape and their ideologies, failure of mainstream society to address the situation of unprivileged section of society’s women rights and international lobbying agencies’ role in protecting women’s rights in India. It will provide an unbiased solution towards the on-going problems of the Dalit women and will critique on the role of Bollywood’s biased outlook towards Indian society.
Glamour
The participants in the protest were protesting alongside their personal interests on the favour of media to grab an attention in reaching the public. No doubt, political parties took the wage of day by embracing their presence in the talk shows and visiting the rape victim families. Religious leaders propagated the conservatism on a hand. Bollywood drained with the popularity stunts also participated with black ribbons and placards. Among the several million participants around the country, the young students were the only innocent participants who marched in frustration blaming the government. Sadly these groups of protestors were misled by personal gains.
Presence of religious heads
Question arises as to why did the religious leaders tried to pacify the victim’s family by participating in protest or giving statements in solidarity? Are not these Hindu leaders educated enough to sneak into their religious texts that codified laws for centuries which governed India? One such reference goes to Manusmriti, Chapter IX verse 5 reads, “Women must particularly be guarded against evil inclinations, however trifling they may appear; for, if they are not guarded, they will bring sorrow on two families.”[6] Chapter VII verse 299 reads, “Animal, illiterate, shudra and women needs to be beaten like a drum” Chapter IX verse 18 says, “As a falsification is impure, similarly women are impure. Which means women have no right of reading, teaching or reciting verses.” Chapter 36 verse 37 says “women are way to hell” these and many other religious codes signify the status of women. Equivalently Islam too is not untouched with the demeaning status of women, and in particularly when it comes to the sub-continent it takes a shape of rigidity to prove its immaculate differences from the fellow religions. No religion providing equal status is propagated truly due to the existence of patriarch dominated society. In spite of respect being granted in the holy texts, noble leaders undermine women’s position in society and elsewhere. As was recommended by one of the Islamic organisations Jamaat-e-Islami Hind and many alike recommended continuance of old style order of society with dominance of males over females. Hence, when it comes to the practise of their religion and societal order, the religious leaders cannot claim any right to protest on the situation of rape witnessed by Delhi. When in fact the massive deflation of reported and unreported cases of rape took place under their valid authority in various hypsography. Therefore, when they claim to be supporters of equality for women and protection of their rights they should first express an apology to the public for the past violence against women by the same religious tag which history has witnessed.
Varying degree of protest on various levels from the political figures, religious leaders, social activist, women organisations and students gave a signal to the potential perpetrators a serious warning to step back with their intentions. This protest has undoubtedly gained a wide outreach all over. Apart from this incident of rape, there still lies a highest vulnerable group of Indian society which the protestors are unaware of, the pity and defenceless Dalit women. This group is the highest discriminated section in the world that faces tripartite discrimination. No other groups are equally discriminated as Dalit women. Ruth Manorma argues, “Dalit women in India are the Dalits among Dalits and suffer from three-fold oppression — on account of gender as a result of patriarchy, caste ‘the untouchable', and class — as they hail from the poorest and most marginalised communities.”[7] The discrimination against the Dalit women in particular gets devoid attention for the unravel misfortune condition impose on them by the society and social norms all apart.
Plight of Dalit women
While the protest around Delhi was going on, there was a Dalit pregnant women gang raped in Bhopal, a Dalit rape victim had been killed by the rapist in the day light in Kanpur, a Dalit girl committed suicide in Punjab. Recently in the month of October 2012, around 19 Dalit women have been raped in Haryana. But the country and media had no coverage to heat the argument in country. Rape of Dalit women is not new to the country, various reports of the National and as well as International agencies put forth the plight of Dalit women in present day India. Various agencies such as United Nations Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights, UN women, UN High Commissioner for Refugees, UN Human Rights Council, UN mandate on Racism, UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women, Special Rapporteurs report on discrimination based on work and descent, Human Rights Watch, International Dalit Solidarity Network, Dalit Solidarity Networks, Netherlands, Germany, Denmark, UK, NACDOR, etc. highlight the threatening condition of Dalit women in their reports which starts with basic understanding of violence towards Dalit women in particular. Most rape cases happen in villages, among the rapes in villages, almost 80% and more are against the Dalit women. Recently published documentary by the United Nations office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on the importance of human rights educations manifest the testimony of a young school going Dalit girl in Tamil Nadu where she lives in the fear of violence, being maligned as a Dalit. Sexual abuse and violence against a Dalit women starts since childhood, she is already made aware of her caste, and since then starts her humiliating journey of life retrospectively for which she has to accept the blame of her parents being born into the cursed society. No Dalit girl child can easily access the social space of society, neither can she fetch the water[8] from the general tap in most cases because of her caste, she cannot attend the school, cannot study for long hours as she has to work part time assisting her parents. She is discriminated for her caste on every vocation except one, having free and forced sex. There is no caste line bothering the rapists to think even for a while before taking the heinous step. Even before attaining maturity she is being sexually abused and raped often, these incidents remains unnoticed. She is being filmed during the rape and her scandalous clips are sold to the market, she is forced to have sex with the landlords, village heads and the government officials to the least. All her life she is being treated as a sex slave which is quite evident with the existence of Devadasi system wherein she is appointed to act as a sex partner for famished priests of temples.
You may argue that, when it is rape it is absurd to discriminate the victim on the caste or religious lines. Which is in fact true, because rape is affecting whole ‘women’ community as a whole. But it is more evident that most rapes that are occurring since time immemorial are only against a particular section of society which sadly is under reported and no protestor ever has marched the capital in protest of a rape against Dalit women with the same affection. To prove my contention I can give the details of rapes happening in various parts of India and not too far but in a very recent time span of 2-4 months. Rapes in Haryana where a girl was raped brutally and to the humiliation her father committed suicide, was there any national protest? Rape in Maharashtra of a mother and her teen age daughter, was there any national protest? Sexual assault in Satara by upper caste males to a mid-aged Dalit women, was there any national protest? Rape and arson of Dalits in Tamil Nadu, was there any national protest? This and many more, the list continues the humiliating path
Statistics of rape against Dalit women
Reported cases of rape against Dalit women in Maharashtra was 35, 21 in Tamil Nadu and Gujarat was 20. “On the other hand violence on, Dalit women by the community itself (including family) saw 15 women being murdered in three states (eight Tamil Nadu, four Gujarat and three Maharashtra), and 37 cases of rape or gang rape (19 Tamil Nadu, 12 Gujarat, 6 Maharashtra) were reported.”[9] According to the study of Navsarjan trust (reported in the daily Hindu) on atrocity data obtained for Maharashtra, Gujarat and Tamil Nadu found that between December 2004 and November 2009, “only 0.79 per cent of cases were convicted (three cases) of violence. In Gujarat there were no convictions at all.” According to the organisation’s study there were 379 cases of violence against Dalit women by non-Dalits between December 2004 and November 2009 across the three states. However, the outcome of only 101 cases (26.6 per cent) was known to have been decided when the data was analysed in the beginning of 2011.[10] Off the total 117 cases (30.9 per cent) remained pending in the courts and the status of 161 cases (42.5 per cent) was unknown. UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women noted, “Dalit women face targeted violence even rape and murder by the state actors and powerful members of dominant castes used to inflict political lessons and crush dissent with the community.”[11]
Looking ahead
There is a policy of turning your eye away from the incidents happening with most discriminated groups of the world. Society now should take a proven lesson from the recent incident of rape. The way society has responded should happen with potential incidents if ever they occur. To the least, society should to start thinking about avoiding such incidents and making the vibrant and colourful India a stigma free society thinking about caste, class, gender and region.
This might sound loud to raise a deliberate concern, but it is what the pace of sentence demands, an equal appropriate action. Concerning the appalling situation of Dalits in villages gives a first-hand chance to the Khap Panahcyat which is another arbitratory tale of sadist India. Continuous cases of honour killings and denial of freedom to choose their future partners is still an apathy to the development of Indian society. Who gave the right to Mohan bhagwat to comment on the situation of women in India when he himself is lacked with wisdom of modernity and equality for gender. He still lives in the principles of Vedic discrimination that treat women inferior than men, degenerating to animals. During his visit to one of the training camps for the same outcasts (tribals who were forced to exile in remote forests denying their basic standard of living) has taken pleasure of superiority by asking tribal women to wash his feet.[12] Such a heinous act in present day India is still very much ignored by the protestors. There should be a common norm for the rights of women as a whole and not differentiating between their background and religion. Women in the veil should stand for their rights and protest the patriarch society if their livelihood is deprived of pleasures, they should take lessons from progressive Muslim societies where for example women march on streets to demand their rights or knock the doors of courts.
Apart from the criticism of religious hands and the interpretation of its leaders, there lies a significant success that works more than symbolically. Nowadays, the participation of religious heads and clergies has made it clear that the old adage of conservatism is a time lapsed concept and new ideologies should be sermon. Hence, these religious figures should stand to their basic principles of non-discrimination and come on a common ground to fight the injustices faced by women in particularly the Dalit women. The politicians in the house shedding tears does not sympathise those groups who are raped on the daily basis. The question as to why were their grievances not heard and why was there no protest in the house when they were beleaguered on daily basis. No innocent victim of rape ever wants to stuck up in the fear of humiliation, hence, the tearful Bollywood and adamant opposition would potentially look more good if it ever tries to cry for the daily atrocities against Dalit women amounting a large portion of India’s population.
Lack of interest by the international players
To date it is clearly visible that whenever an atrocity happens against Dalits in India, it is only Dalit group or Dalit social organisations who take up the matter for justice. There is seldom any mainstream figure seen involving in raising the voice against injustice. No film industry ever has dared to show the plight of Dalits except a Dalit director who digged into the age old texts and presented the conditions of Shudras in his 2012 movie. Neither any of the participants showed sympathy to the victims of Khairlanji massacre in the very state of Maharashtra where the Bollywood film industry is situated. Issues of caste in the cinema are slightly touched rather ignored to touch the crest alike the African-American classics which highlight the pity condition of blacks via media using cinema as the best medium to convey message. Sadly Bollywood industry needs to study about its responsibilities and then propagate the social messages. Although Dalits and castes system has been a running currency in the international market, hence we see the slaughter of Dalits is been sold in the international market by the well-established NGOs and development agencies. No international NGO from India has ever voiced a concern on the rape of Dalit / tribal women in Orissa or Maharashtra. It was the international Dalits solidarity that worked along the lines but dare these well-established NGOs in India ever talked about Dalits rights exclusively, except very few who are also inspired by their own motives. To my personal experience in light of growing atrocities against Dalit women, no any Indian NGO working on international stage ever protested against the barbaric scenario but it was some international NGO who had Dalit ties only voiced their concerns. It was sad to see that those Indian NGOs were governed by their own prejudices and policies as these belonged to the so called elite sections of societies who never cared about the true plight of 160 million Indians even if they did, never expressed. When questioned about the situation of Dalits to one of the UN expert in London who was an Indian, he had no way to answer pragmatic responses but instead had a defence on the side of perpetrators. When a UN expert himself is clouded with prejudices then the condition of common mainstream human rights workers is too distant.
Plight of Dalit women are sadly not addressed at international level due to the lack of Dalit women leadership, although there are few educated academicians and students who are now raising their voice and demanding their rights to be addressed. And blessed is the Dalit diaspora who is alarming the foreign parliaments with human rights of 160 million Indians. At least with these recent outrage of protests will educate unaware Indians about the daily happenings of society.
When a rape takes place, it doesn’t see if it is against a Dalit or non-Dalit it is taking against a group of women community as a whole. Then why are the rapes against Dalit women under reported with no protest from the other section of society apart from Dalits themselves. If every women stands in solidarity with all the women of Indian society, rejecting the bias then only a strong force to fight out sexism will be launched to march out the real aim of the coming law against rape.

Conclusion
This paper introduced the current situation of rape protest across Delhi and worldwide. It has looked into the basic arguments of the Dalit society which see rape as an often thing. It criticised the role of religious leaders in providing the false leadership for the lost Indian citizens. The statistics played a pivotal role in showcasing the true condition of Dalit women in Indian society. Much study on the situation of rapes in villages needs a separate elaborative research collecting data state-wise to override the records to national crime bureau statistics which ignores to introduce a special column detailing the cases against Dalit women. The biased role of international NGOs of India in ignoring the issue of caste has been a greatest apathy since decades of international lobbying until recently when the Dalit solidary networks started lobbying the issue. This paper has tried to find out a solution to address the problems of discrimination and sexism spread in society by using available resources and encouraging the powerful media like Bollywood and religious leaders to take an important role in providing solutions to the present day Indian society.


Suraj Yengde
Doctoral Candidate
Centre for Indian Studies in Africa
University of Witwatersrand,
Johannesburg, SA
Resources:

Crime in India 2005, http://ncrb.nic.in/crime2005/home.htm and http://ncrb.nic.in/crime2005/cii-2005/CHAP7.pdf taken from IDSN Annual report, 2006 footnote 1,

European Parliament resolution on the human rights situation of the Dalits in India, ‘Human rights of the Dalits in India’ , February 01, 2007, Brussels

Hetal Shah, ‘Dalit women face three-fold discrimination from birth’


Human Rights Watch, ‘
Broken People: Caste Violence Against India's "Untouchables"

National Commission for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, National Crime Records Bureau (M.H.A.), Statement Showing Cases Registered with the Police Under Different Nature of Crimes and Atrocities on Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes from 1994 to 1996 (New Delhi: Government of India, 1997).













[1] Manusmriti: Chapter IX verse 114
[2] Manusmriti:Chapter IX verse 17

[3] Protest against sexual violence in India Outside the Indian High Commission, London, WC2B 4NA

[4] HT correspondent, J’amaat: ban co-education to curb rapes’  Hindustan Times, January 06, 2013

[5]Delhi gang rape: Asaram Bapu holds girl responsible for rape’ the times of India, January 01st, 2013 available on http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/videos/news/Delhi-gang-rape-Asaram-Bapu-holds-girl-responsible-for-rape/videoshow/17922619.cms accessed January 01st, 2013


[6] Controversial and interesting, India divine, available on http://www.indiadivine.org/showthread.php?t=27784 accessed 07th January 2013
[7] Ruth Manorma, ‘fighting for Dalit women’ 04th June 2012 available on http://informed-giving.org/story_details.php?id=MTQx accessed 07th January 2013

[9] Rahi Gaikwad, ‘Dalit women at the receiving end’ the Hindu, 25 September 2012

[10] Data taken from the article by Rahi Gaikwad, Ibid.
[11] Ibid.

[12] Piyush Shirvasta, ‘Sangh chief in feet-wash row after tribal women are forced to clean his toes’ mail today, 4 March 2012 http://www.dailymail.co.uk/indiahome/indianews/article-2109751/Mohan-Bhagwat-feet-wash-row-tribal-women-forced-clean-toes.html