Post Mortem

21ST century India

DIMAPUR | Publish Date: 10/7/2020 11:24:13 AM IST

 Social structure of India is premised on caste. Therefore, the Indian society is caste-driven. In such a societal arrangement who should fall on top, middle and at the bottom and outside the pyramid is determined and designated by a system calledcaste. The so-called “Untouchables”—Scheduled caste—Dalits designated by the system of caste as ‘avarnas’—outside the varna system are treated as “Untouchable” in their own land and now a situation has arisen for the Dalits to ask: In life and death the anathema continues—a naked reality!

Dalits are the original inhabitants of this country, but the casteists do not accept the reality and are determined to terminate them from the face of this earth. Casteist India changes its mechanisms and strategies in accordance to the changing times in brute ways. And yet, Dalits’ resolve and resilience continues to reign over the deadliest and heinous casteist forces. What happened recently should make all of us—the entire nation to bow down in shame at Hatharas in Uttar Pradesh, few hundred kilometres away from the capital of India.

A 20-year old young Dalit woman gang raped by the casteists, survivedwith broken bones,tongue twisted, admitted after some days of tussle in a hospital, died and cremated in such a hurry against the wishes of her parents and brothers. It is damning as we observe the trajectories of this horrifying episode—raped, paralysed, murdered and cremated without anyone beside.The entire episode happened in just two weeks that unfolds the life ofthe Dalits in this country.

It is chilling, how a brute state and its machinery could go to protect the casteists and then with its power hoodwink the legal procedures by subverting the rule of law before a community and citizens witnessing, and yet come out shamelessly with all sorts of lies. Hatharas incident vertically rips open the intricacies of caste as Dalits have no dignity while alive and no dignity in death as well. It is so horrifying that she has been denied dignity due to her even after death wherein her family was also denied—perhaps be summed in this way—raped to death cremated by force, and no one was allowed to have the last glimpse of India’s daughter.

This episode testifies that there’s no dignity in life and death for Dalits in this country. At 2.30AM, Uttar Pradesh police and para-military cordoned the ambulance, 2.43 AM pulled out the body of a young Dalit woman who succumbed to brutalities from the ambulance,and at 2.45AM was cremated without the family being present and against the wishes of the community ina hurry. Do the Uttar Pradesh police have something to hide? Hathras victim was denied a decent and dignified cremation. Is this the testimony of the 21st Century India?

She left the face of the earth with all kinds of caste brutalities and at last all alone—her final journey. A human just because being born in the varna system branded as a Dalit who should have lived and led a life like that of many others, but had to leave the very face of this earth in such dastardly ways. She died not because of her doings, but due to the heinous system of caste and those who could not digest her existence. Visuals of her pain and agony in her dying declarationtells saga,only a Dalit woman could understand. Tortures inflicted by the state machinery because she was born in the wretched caste system in India and what she underwent should trigger the conscience of those who believe in gender equality, humandignity and rule of law.

Institutionalized casteism which is systemic and structural. The ways with which it is systematically advanced, promoted and perpetuated by the casteist India against the Dalits even in the fag end of the second decade of the 21st century show stupendous increase in newer ways is studded with horrifying testimonies. Caste and casteism are real and thus visibly present in number shades and forms in India.Hathras incident candidly exposes the intersectional dynamic of power equations that swings between patriarchy, class and caste. One should see through the inter-play of power. As rightly pointed out by Asha Kowtal, a Dalit activist: “Rape is a weapon to silence the assertions of the community. A way to teach us a lesson.”

The victim was a Dalit by caste configuration who failed to match up with caste stratification—rural (not “sophisticated”, “cultured”), domicile—cheri (colony) as per the social description; poor—agricultural laborlore (economic factor) when it comes to class equations and women in terms of gender. If we bring all these within the casteist India measurements she failed on all counts and therefore she was powerless and thus culturally challenged, silenced and destroyed. Casteist India in this incident went all out to protect the dominant caste rapists.

Governments are elected based on castes and so it is obvious that they go all out to protect casteism. The State Government of Uttar Pradesh pulled up its state machinery—police, administration, magistrate, health system and many others that went into actionin such a speed to hush up the case. Its only objective and motif are to protect the casteists and casteism and so went all out gearing-up everything at its disposal. Casteist citizens in this countryare a group enmeshed with intolerance and filled with hatred and anger against the very existence of the Dalits in this land.

Dalits have come to a point of realization that the country they are born into, the soil they belong to, the contributions they make to the progress, growth and development of this land and the life they lead do not concur. The indicators between them and others are huge and widening. Caste per se has no human civility and so totally lacks humanity. Who to trust, when Dalits live in real animosity? Casteist India reiterates and reinforces in its narratives that there is no caste in this country and thus pushes the lynchingof the Dalits under the carpet.

How long would the Dalits tolerate such kinds of violent brutalities perpetuated against them? And yet, Dalits keep crying for justice and why, when justice is at a distance and beyond realizable distance—’here and now’ as we see in the case of Hathras. What happened in Hathras is a total negation of natural justice and yet the victim’s next to kin and citizens of India are asking for justice. When the victims of injustice ask for justice fully knowing that nothing would be translated on ground,what is the use of crying for justice—sheertravesty of justice—revolving aroundfurtherance of injustices and inequalities.

Caste per se underpins inter-play of power. Whoever is born in the so-called “upper castes”/” dominant castes” automatically inherits and thus wields power. It operates on gradations as caste is hierarchical.The term” entitlements”, include status, prestige, honour, privilege and host of others. And so, caste intersects these along with patriarchy and class. Caste intrinsically determines one locale, status and power dynamics. Hathras is a classic case that exposes several determining factors that undergirds caste—the base structure of the Indian society.

Intersectionality of caste by all means and all at levels should be annihilated. Do Dalits’ lives matter? For the casteists and those subscribing to the political parties and ideologies of patriarchy exert their dominance and power, the ways the rapists exhibited in Hatharas does not matter. But, for the Dalits and those concerned and believe in the sanctity of life does matter. As Thurgood Marshall, US judge, reminds us that “When you see wrong or inequality or injustice, speak out, because this is your country. This is your democracy.”

Dr. John Mohan Razu

Launched on December 3,1990. Nagaland Post is the first and highest circulated newspaper of Nagaland state. Nagaland Post is also the first newspaper in Nagaland to be published in multi-colour.

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