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Dalit Lives Matter: A case of violence and oppression

Kashika reports on the growing movement–Dalit Lives Matter–and the systematic injustices and sexual violence which afflict women in India

In India we worship the female gods, Mata Saraswati, Maa Durga and Goddess Kali, yet approximately 87 rape cases were reported each day in the year 2019, which adds up to a total to 4,05,861 cases in one year. Comparatively, casteism is another prominent concern in modern day India. Dalit, comes from the Sanskrit word dalan, meaning broken or oppressed. Dalit, in layman’s terms considered untouchable, is officially defined as a caste in the Indian Constitution under Article 341, listed under the Scheduled Castes. From a young age, Dalits are discriminated against–from not being permitted to enter any place where the upper class is present or even drink water from the same source. They are segregated within their classrooms, workplaces and even by law. The juxtaposition of these systematic human rights violations directly contradicts India’s attempts to portray itself as a progressive nation.

indiatoday.in

On September 14th 2020, Manisha, a 19-year old Dalit girl was gang raped and tortured by four ‘upper class’ men who dragged her by her shawl from the field where she was cutting grass. She was found by her family, naked and bleeding, and was admitted to a hospital in Delhi where she passed away. The police cremated her body in the dead of night, depriving her family of any chance to say their goodbyes. As she burnt to ashes, she was missing half of her tongue, her spine and neck were broken, and the lower half of her body was paralysed from the horrific rape she endured. The police denied all rape accusations, as there was no semen present on her body. This is just one instance. Women have been raped inside police stations, where they went to report complaints of sexual harassment. There are cases where even after a rape is reported, the police take no action to help the victim or punish the rapists. In India, if a woman is raped by a man of a higher caste, she is spurned by the police and other upper-caste members. If a woman is rapped by a man of her caste, she is avoided by her own community.

Rupak De Chowdhuri/Reuters

Four Dalit women are raped in India every day. This exemplifies why caste matters in sexual assault. When a lower caste is concerned, there is no threat, no risk, no price to pay for raping women. The safeguard which the Indian Government provids for these rapists is a direct representation of the political transgressions present in India.

The truth of the matter is every girl, around the world, has encountered an incident which she associates with rape culture. Girls are constantly told what to do to in order to “protect” themselves from men or in practice make it easier for boys not to sexually attack them. At school, it is commonplace for girls to be told to cover up because “It is distracting for boys”. We are told to not go out at night, not travel alone–to sit a particular way, to talk a particular way. We are told to wear a jacket, to carry pepper spray, to learn self-defense. Rape culture is so deeply ingrained in day to day life that girls are told to wear ‘appropriate’ clothes in their OWN home because other people simply cannot stop sexualizing them–because boys will be boys. 

trtworld.com

Politics and justice, surprisingly enough, do not go hand in hand in a country like India. We deny the inherent existence of casteism in our metropolitan cities. Like in Manisha’s case, there are differences everywhere in the autopsy and post-mortem reports. The police’s claims, like the Indian Government’s, don’t add up. It is long due that we serve justice for all these women. Let’s speak up. For Dalits. For Women. Dalit Lives Matter.

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