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Wednesday, Oct 27, 2021
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Rape, A Caste Continuum

Though the 19-year-old from Hathras burns in front of our eyes, what’s on that funeral pyre are unkept promises of our Constitution

Rape, A Caste Continuum
Photograph by Sandipan Chatterjee
Rape, A Caste Continuum
outlookindia.com
2020-10-02T13:13:16+05:30

Speak, memory? Not in a country where tongues are cut off, literally and metaphorically. And capital punishment awaits the offender…by the roadside, in country fields. There’s enough ‘real life’ in India—too much of it—but let us consider fiction. Remember Article 15? Two young girls had asked for a hike in their daily wage, a mere three rupees. The contractor taught them a lesson. (By raping and killing them, since you ask. That’s the normal currency in these parts.) How dare a “lower caste” ask questions? How dare these dispossessed people, supposed to sell their labour the way it’s defined in the holy scriptures, demand rights? How dare they speak? The film—noticed, among other things, for placing a do-gooder Brahmin cop in the centre of the frame—was based loosely on real life, the Badaun gangrape-cum-murder. Remember Paatal Lok? A Dalit mother was raped by a hundred men—it was retribution for her rebel son standing up to dominant caste bullying. The Dalits and oppressed castes have to be terrorised and disciplined in order to ensure dominance, and what could be a more complete way to do it than violating a Dalit woman’s body? It accomplishes real and symbolic violence together. That’s why rape and gendered violence have always been used as a political tool to contain power within the sway of the ruling class/castes. From the old “nidan” of a Shudra woman having to produce her first child with the “grace” of a Brahmin man to the horrific Laxmanpur Bathe case of 1997 where Ranvir Sena militia casually mixed rape with massacre, the Dalit woman’s body has been created and recreated as a site of violence to rip apart the aspirations of the marginalised.

Today when we shiver with horror at Hathras, and our...

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