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 for Dalit Women?

Mainstream, VOL LI, No 8, February 9, 2013

Is India the Most Dangerous Place
 for Dalit Women?

Friday 15 February 2013, by A K Biswas


“A wave of sexual assaults has rocked the northern Indian State of Haryana. In the last one month alone, a dozen, mostly Dalit, girls and women have been raped, raising concerns about the security of women in India.” Thus went in the air a breaking news of the German television, Deutsche Welle DW TV, which is an international public broadcaster, under the headline “Sonia Gandhi promises to act as series of rapes shocks India.”1 Broadcasts of the DW are carried in 39 languages including English, French, Spanish, Arabic, Persian, Russian, Turkish, Chinese, Japanese, Italian, Hindi, Bengali and Urdu to note a few, besides German. What drove the foreign media to accord so high a priority to “the security of women in India?”

The Daily Mail, a British middle-market daily newspaper (established 1896) with the average daily circulation of 1,991,000 copies and readership of approximately 4.37 million, reported in its columns the shame of India—the rape of Dalit women in Haryana—under the banner “Haryana’s rape shame: Registered cases show two women are attacked in State every day”. The daily, October 7, 2012, said that between January and August (2012), “455 women were raped in Haryana, the equivalent to two each day”. It specified the theatres of indignity of women: “Hisar police range, with no fewer than 94 rapes, tops Haryana’s ignominious list, followed by the Karnal (92), Rewari (89) and Rohtak (87) police range, which covers the home town of Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda.”

These districts, in fact, were practically on equal footing in crimes against women. The police are habitually reluctant to register FIRs (First Information Reports) for rape. They must be stubbornly opposed against registering cases u/s 375 IPC in the Chief Minster’s home district. Cases of 87 rape in Rohtak district were merely a microscopic fraction of the actual numbers of rapes and sexual assaults against women. It carries tons of significance regarding social peace and security for women. And if the international media highlighted the top political executive’s own home district as occupying the frontline in crimes against women, for others it is less said the better: blinding darkness must have engulfed the entire State. For Dalit and tribal women, the entire nation stands equally as areas of dread and disaster.

The Daily Mail, referring to the Thomson Reuters’ Trust survey, bemoaned: “This year, India is the most dangerous country of the
G-20 for women because of child marriage, foeticide and infanticide, sexual trafficking, domestic slave labour, domestic violence and high maternal mortality.”2 In ordinal scale of global shame, India occupied the fourth position while Afghanistan, Pakistan, Congo top three slots respectively while Somalia grabbed fifth. Two days later, the same daily carried another story, headlined, “The politics of rape: Sonia visits family of Dalit rape victim and promises financial support”, with further assurance for severest action against the rapists. Nobody knows the status of the action in compliance to the assurance of the powerful chief of the ruling party in Haryana. The Chief Minister does not count the lowly Dalits much, even if his party’s President made a few promises. The rapists are either offsprings of multimillionaires or enjoy powerful political connections which explain why Dalit victims have slim chances of getting justice. The system in place cannot or does not punish the rapists if their victim is a Dalit.

On October 27, The New York Times broke the news under the caption, “A village rape shatters a family, and India’s traditional silence”. Datelined Dabra, the place of the crime, Jim Yardley reported that “one after another, eight men, may be more, reeking of pesticide and cheap whiskey had dragged the girl into a darkened stone shelter and assaulted her for three hours. She was 16 years old.” After the crime, the beasts “threatened to kill if she told anyone. Speaking out would have been difficult, anyway, given the hierarchy of caste. She was poor and a Dalit, the low-caste group once known as untouchables, while most of the attackers were from higher caste that dominated land and power in the village.”

The prominent US daily added: “It might have ended there, if not for the videos: her assailants had taken cellphone videos as trophies and the images began circulating among village men until one was shown to the victim’s father, his family said. Distraught, the father committed suicide on September 18 by drinking pesticide.” The objective of the aggressors was to shame and humiliate the entire family besides the community of the victim. Exactly three months after the Dabra teenage rape, an identical crime against a girl student has been committed in a moving school bus in a crowded Delhi road However, the official reactions as well as media orchestration in the latter case convince us to believe that both cases differ vastly. The difference, undoubtedly, arose because of the social class and caste difference of the victims at both ends.

Who are Dangerous for Women?
The New York Times identifies Rapists

Disclosing the identity of the Dabra criminals, The New York Times declared: “The police have arrested eight men — seven of them Jats—who have confessed to the attack.” In the long story in its esteemed columns, the daily focused on the source of the curse: “Politically, the Jat caste largely controls a Statewide network of unelected, all-male councils known as khap panchayats, which dominate many rural regions of the State.” Speaking about the colluding people’s representatives, it said that “Elected leaders are reluctant to confront the khaps, given their ability to turn out voters, and often endorse their conservative social agenda, in which women are subservient to men. Khaps have sought to ban women from wearing blue jeans or using cellphones. One khap member […..........], blamed fast food for the rise in rape cases, arguing that it caused hormonal imbal-ances and sexual urges in young women.” The caste council also favoured “lowering the legal marriage age”. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, another US daily, reproduced from The New York Times this same story under same caption on October 28.

The NYT ran more stories under such banners: “In Rural Haryana, Women Blamed for Rape Where Men Make the Rules” (October 12); “In Haryana, Hundreds Protest State’s Response to Rape” (October 15); “As India Responds to Latest Rapes, the Unanswered Question is ‘Why?’” (October 16) and “Special Report: Outcry after rape of Indian girl aged 16 triggers calls for reduction in age of consent”. In addition, BBC, October 21, 2012 broadcast “Why rural sexual violence remains rife in India” (Dabra, Haryana).

For a Hindu, caste is a divine demarcation line and convenient apparatus for discrimination, considered as sanctified. The virus has spread deep, far and wide—causing comatose in every limb of the human organ of Indians. However, when the members of upper echelons use it, no eyebrows go up nor any accusation is voiced. A judgment of the Rajasthan High Court drives this poignant aspect glaringly: “... the shocking decision of Rajasthan High Court where the learned judge refused to accept that a Brahmin boy can rape a Dalit girl as the former would not even touch the latter...”3 Does the honourable judge sound like possessed by evil spirit of the ancient lawgiver Manu and was propounding untouchability, which has eluded due attention of the intellectual and elite classes who, of course, garrulously feign and pontificate that caste has ceased to influence national life? The Bar Association of the Rajasthan High Court, by the way, established a statue of the malefic Manu in the premises of the (Rajasthan) High Court in 1989. A number of cases seeking removal of the statue are pending before the High Court for disposal over two decades.4 A rare window on the mindset of the luminaries adoring high judicial offices! In the given circumstances, the High Court, it may not be out place to hazard a guess, has forfeited the goodwill and confidence of Dalit victims to expect any justice from any Bench. Manu is the most virulent advocate for untouchability, discrimination and social stratification.

Global Campaigns against Atrocities of
Dalit and Tribals

Resident Indians are unaware that the international media has launched widespread and vigorous campaigns calling on the Central as well as State governments to end caste-based atrocities and discrimination against Dalits and tribal communities. Their ignorance is mainly because of the overzealous Indian media that usually shies away from highlighting the overseas campaigns aimed at promoting human rights of the Indian underclass. The NRIs are, however, under the crushing burden of their cultural baggage as also garbage; so they can ill-afford to support those campaigns abroad or to bring the same to the attention of their government back home and influence their policies. In the past, of course, NRIs were known to have supported the Indian governments, State and Central, on various issues.

On December 13, 2012 the Parliament of the European Union adopted a resolution that would offend India’s caste lords. It observed that though “many Dalits do not report crimes for fear of reprisals by the dominant castes, official police statistics averaged over the past five years show that 13 Dalits are murdered every week, five Dalits’ homes or possessions are burnt every week, six Dalits are kidnapped or abducted every week, three Dalit women are raped every day, 11 Dalits are beaten every day and a crime is committed against a Dalit every 18 minutes”.

Expressing shock and “concern at the low rate of conviction for the perpetrators of such crimes” and calling on the Government of India “to improve its criminal justice system in order to facilitate registration of charges against perpetrators of crimes against Dalits, to increase the conviction rate for such perpetrators, to significantly reduce the duration of court procedures; and to take special measures for the protection of Dalit women”, the EU Parliament “wanted the Government of India to amend and strengthen the Prevention of Atrocities Acts (1989); asked for the full financial rehabilitation of victims and families of caste-related violence and discrimination”. The EU Parliament has frontally attacked India for its negligence as also failure for administration of justice, practicing discrimination against the dalits and denial of justice.

A Nobel Laureate and EU Parliament bemoan Discrimination and Untouchability

Indians are stone-deaf to hear and blind to see the realities of life befalling the tribal and Dalit communities. Their thick-skin, totally lacking in sensitivity, does not allow them to admit of the truth. The hypocrites ensconced in various layers in the power structure are apt in fudging data and obfuscate the truth and reality. What did the Ambassadors and High Commissioners, who, accredited to various countries around the globe and considered as trusted eyes and ears of the Government of India, do in the face of sustained campaigns about the danger to women at home? Did they ever bring various critical foreign media reports or EU Parliamentary resolutions on attacks and violation of the dignity of Dalit women to the attention of the government back home? Or did they sweep those media reports as also the EU Parliament’s resolutions adopted very recently under the thick and colourful carpets as usually happens in India, if the interests of Dalits or tribals are concerned? Admitted that the Indian diplomatic missions dutifully reported the unpalatable criticisms in the foreign media but the government definitely had no courage to acknowledge the truth of the tragedies of Dalits and tribals. The self-styled bold and investigative Indian media that stridently claim to be the defender of freedom of speech connived in the government’s blindness and insensitivity in this matter.

Nobel Peace Laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu, dismayed at the prevalence of untouch-ability and caste-based discrimination in India, said in March 2010: “In 2001, I noted that India was at the forefront of the struggle against apartheid and expressed the belief that the Indian people would want to end the scourge of caste discrimination. I still hope that this is so, and I strongly urge the Indian Government and my own government to endorse international efforts to end the practice of ‘untouchability’, which is a blot on humanity. Such support would be a boost to the struggle for Dalit rights, not only in India, but all over the world.”5

India’s inability to curb untouchability and caste-based discrimination is a standing blot on the authorities. The great African humanist and Nobel Laureate seems to have accepted on face value the Indian pretension enunciated at the World Conference against Racism, Racial Discri-mination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance (August 31 to September 8, 2001), Durban, South Africa. The Indian Government had flatly denied that there was any racial discrimination and contended that caste discrimination did not amount to racial discrimination per se. India boldly declared: “In the run up to the World Conference, there has been propaganda, highly exaggerated and misleading, often based on anecdotal evidence, regarding caste based discrimination in India. We have in India faced this evil squarely. This issue has remained at the top of our national agenda.”6

As if to taunt India’s above claim made at an international convention, the National Geographic two years later, on June 2, 2003, carried a long story captioned “India’s ‘Untouchables’ Face Violence, Discrimination”. The author of the piece, Hillary Mayell, says: “More than 160 million people in India are considered ‘Untouchable’—people tainted by their birth into a caste system that deems them impure, less than human.” The report goes on to add: “Human rights abuses against these people, known as Dalits, are legion. A random sampling of headlines in mainstream Indian newspapers tells their story: ‘Dalit boy beaten to death for plucking flowers’; ‘Dalit tortured by cops for three days’; ‘Dalit ‘witch’ paraded naked in Bihar’; ‘Dalit killed in lock-up at Kurnool’; ‘7 Dalits burnt alive in caste clash’; ‘5 Dalits lynched in Haryana’; ‘Dalit woman gang-raped, paraded naked’; ‘Police egged on mob to lynch Dalits’.” The government and their delegates at Durban were fooling themselves around. The whole world knows accurately what goes inside India for the Dalit and tribal communities.

Amnesty International reported in 2001 on an “extremely high” number of sexual assaults on Dalit women. Landlords, upper-caste villagers, and police officers are primarily responsible for the assaults. The National Geographic cited a specific instance of violation of a Dalit woman. “Ram Chandra, a Dalit living in Munni Khera was married to Ramvathi. They owned a piece of land on which they had a house. Dalits are generally not allowed to own land, and upper-caste villagers were trying to take the land from them. In September 1998, Ramvathi was gang-raped by five men. These men are believed to be higher-caste villagers who raped her as a punishment for the couple’s refusal to give up their land. For a while, the couple moved to Ramvathi’s parent’s village some distance away. They returned to the village on January 30, 1999 to repossess their property. They were met with violence. First Ram Chandra was severely beaten. He described what happened next as follows: “They attacked my wife with stick, she fell down then and there. After that my wife came to me and laid over my body to save me, then they had beaten my wife with sticks and axes. She got deep injuries on the head and shoulder and her right hand and leg were broken. [One of the attackers] put off all the clothes of my wife, raped her and inserted and pushed the stick in her private part.” Ramvathi died the next morning. The depraved rapists inserted a hard substance into the victim’s private parts. Soni Kori, the tribal teacher-activist, has met with the same fate prior to the Delhi rape victim. Unconcerned and apathetic, the nation’s conscience remained asleep. These are anecdotal and hence in the eyes of the government delegates in international conferences and conventions meaningless. India has launched herself on the high road for economic reforms, blissfully oblivious of social reforms, hoping things will automatically fall in place. Caste never allowed any reform in its basic character and principles of discrimination or hatred based on birth.

Needless to stress a decade after the grand-standing at the Durban World Conference, India’s so-called top national agenda remained on paper only and gathered a huge layer of dust. The perception and assessment of discrimination of the people who are not subjected and of those who suffer the brunt of it in their day-to-day life would always differ vastly. The sufferers alone are capable and competent of uttering the final verdict, if or whether they feel discriminated under the social-political-cultural dispensation holding all-pervasive and malevolent sway over every aspect of their life. The privileged, with their elitist prism, have reason to be partial and incorrect. History does not yield evidence that a persecutor was ever capable of seeing his own pitfalls or faults.

India was booed down in unison by the non-official participants/NGOs at the Durban World Conference for its official stand. The powerful and popular foreign media continue to document the lies India habitually propagate in global conventions, conferences and summits. Here we once again look at their role. Two electronic media with global outreach, BBC and CNN, did not overlook the unabated savagery, unfolding in the Indian subcontinent. The British Broadcasting Corporation on October 9, 2012 with the headline, “Sonia Gandhi visits Haryana rape victim family”, and the Cable News Network of the USA on October 13, 2012 under the headline, “Indian girl seeks justice after gang rape”, devoted considerable airspace to tell globally the sorry state of Dalits in their motherland. The former underlined that “Most of the victims were Dalits (formerly called “untouchables”) and underage girls.” The Dabra victim wanted to become a doctor and her dream has been shattered by rape, indignity and ignominy. This is not merely a village-centric event of barbarism. Dalit and tribal students in AIIMS, which is India’s pride in medical research and training, IITs, IIMs, medical as well as engineering colleges, besides universities, government and private, have committed suicides in the face of monstrous caste-based discrimination and hatred from the upper-caste faculty and fellow students. The victims’ grievances have rarely been redressed. Enquiry reports, if any, are treated with disdain and shelved. Inquiry Commissions, headed by upper-caste judges, have found no merit in
the complaints of these students. Their watchdogs, for example, the National Commission for Scheduled Castes as well as National Commission for Scheduled Tribes, headed by subservient leaders with political connections, are toothless.

In a special for The Independent, London, Andrew Buncombe from Hisar, Haryana, Monday, November 5, 2012, focused on the 16-year-old girl of Dabra. He pointedly noted: “Her alleged attackers were Jats, a higher caste that is common in many north Indian States and are often land-owners. In Dabra, said the senior village official, all the land is owned by Jats.” The dominant castes and classes do not allow the underdogs to nurse a dream and treat them as their serf. Every effort is made in the multi-layered and labyrinthine administrative system to throttle justice for the Dalit victims. The identity of these rapists, marked by social standing, it is sad to observe, is almost a sure passport for them to go scot free. The perversion as also subversion of the delivery of justice is not uncommon.

When the Indian Parliament passed a special Act, that is, the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, great expectation was kindled in the hearts of the victims of massacres, exploitation, rape, and atrocities for justice. In two decades the promise that the Act held has faded away, thanks to blinding apathy and opposition of the vested interest to implement the Act with commitment. No Dalit today hopes to get justice under this law. The special Act stands practically shelved though it has not lost relevance in any manner. Now there are many advocates for abolition of the Act as the conviction rate under this law is a deplorable two-to-three per cent.7 In the recent past, the Minister, Social Justice and Empowerment informed Parliament (the Rajya Sabha) that over one lakh cases of atrocities against Dalits were pending all over the country. The Dowry Prohibition Act 1984, for instance, has similarly not succeeded much in curbing dowry related crimes against women.8 But nobody has agitated that the anti-dowry law should be revoked as many do against the SC & ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.

The reported cases do not reflect the actual number of atrocities—the unreported ones are rather high in excess. The ground reality is extremely agonising. The police routinely refuse to register complaints of atrocities against SCs and STs. The ignorant and hapless victims do not dare to insist on registration in the face of the refusal of the police stations often with an unconcealed tinge of threat. Neither the political masters at the helm appreciate the idea of his/her State being branded as atrocity-prone. Moreover, for the sake of security, dignity or fairplay to the Dalit or tribal communities, no political masters at the helm of affairs would voluntarily commit harakiri by forfeiting the support or patronage of the dominant classes, who are usually accused of committing the atrocities.

Rape in Cultural Ethos?

The Indian attitude or approach to rape and violation of dignity of women is anything but paradoxical. This is best illustrated by the mythology and epics, held in high esteem. Indeed rape of women, strange to say, is deeply inter-twined in the cultural ethos of the Indians, that is, the Hindus in particular. Few celebrated instances from mythology would suffice to drive home the point irrefutably. Sage Atri’s wife Anasuya lived with her husband in Chitrakoot, nestling in the Vindhya mountain range. His wife was extremely pious, who practised austerity and devotion. As her name suggests, she was “free from envy and jealousy”. Once the trinity of the Hindu pantheon—Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva—to test the chastity of this pious woman descended on Atri’s ashram in the disguise of three Brahmins. They were received with due courtesy by the sage’s wife. She later requested the honoured guests to have food she had prepared for them. The Brahmins imposed a terrible condition that they would take food offered by her if, and only if, she served them nude. Anasuya with much hesitation agreed to that. The behaviour of these three Brahmins is equivalent to sexual harassment by any depraved gang in the present day.

The king of the heaven, Lord Indra, on the other hand, uninvited visited the ashram of rishi Gautama in the guise of the sage Gautama himself in his absence and raped his devoted wife, Ahalya. This seems to be one of the earliest instances of rape, if not the first. Rishi Parasara, when he saw the fisher-girl, Satyawati, also known as Matsyagandha, engaged in the ferry service on the river Yamuna, had sex with the unwilling girl in the moving boat in the river. Unmarried, Satyawati gave birth to a son, named Vyas. None of the above suffered in their divine glow, esteem and dignity ever in the eyes of the Hindus. Speaking matter-of-factly, many a devout Hindu might come up unabashedly with allegorical interpretation of these attacks on the dignity of women. Does not the change of the mindset, which is the theme song of the political, academic or social discourse of the day, presuppose that these and other similar mythological stories receive our critical attention for denunciation first and then consigned to the trashcan?

Arthashastra on Blasphemy

Though considered a “blasphemy”, the ancient lawgiver Kautilya, who was the Prime Minister in India’s golden era, prescribes punishment of 24 panas for “sex with images of goddesses.”9 Penalties—lowest, middle and highest standard —were classified in three grades. The lowest standard penalties entailed fines ranging from 48 to 96 panas, while the middle level from 200 to 500 panas, and the highest from 500 to 1000 panas.10 The ‘pana’ was a unit of account comprising 80. The mode of payment then was in silver coin. The venerated authority prescribes 600 panas as penalty for “buying imported salt without paying duty and countervailing duty.”11 The revenue seems to have weighed heavy on his mind than punishing a blasphemer. Further, Kautilya ordered cutting off both feet or a fine of 600 panas for the offender of “theft of adult cattle”. In case of “theft of a temple cattle” death or penalty of highest standard of 500 to 1000 panas has been provided “depending on the gravity of the offence”.12 Following the Delhi rape, the agitators demanded change of mindset of the countrymen. In the background of Hindu mythology and epics, history shows that the Indian mind and attitude have been set and shaped by cultural as well as spiritual values since time immemorial. Where does or can the change start?

Hype Indicative of Privileged Status
of Rape Victim

A casual counter-analysis of the chain of events in the aftermath of rape and subsequent death of a student of physiotherapy on December 16, 2012, in a school bus on the high road of the nation’s glittering Capital, throws up a vista hardly suspected. The authorities threw themselves headlong to appease certain sections that organised the protests with the media taking the stance of a provocateur. For the first time ever students of Delhi University, Jawaharlal Nehru University, Jamia Millia Islamia and Amity Universities demonstrated against rape and clashed with the police for the failure to ensure safety of women in Delhi. None of them ever uttered a word to condemn the long era of apathy in providing security to women and girls, particularly of Dalit and tribal communities, who have suffered indignity from the beasts across the country. The protesters marched up to Rashtrapati Bhawan and clashed at Gate-2 protected heavily by the police and security forces. With untiring media hype, the agitations fanned out, as if, by some invisible forces resorting to remote control mechanism, to Kolkata, Mumbai, Chennai, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Pune etc.

Rape is neither rare nor unknown in India. Nonetheless the nation has never seen protests against rape from the class of men and women who invaded the streets in the Capital.13 For these protesters, India, sadly, is coterminous with the borders of their respective metropolis. The Prime Minister met the agitators on demand. So did Sonia Gandhi. The Prime Minister issued an appeal to the nation for peace. The Safdarjung Hospital started issuing medical bulletins periodically, also without precedent, on the status of the rape victim in the ICU. The Prime Minister and Sonia Gandhi were present at the airport at 3.30 am in the chill of December 29 (2012) night to pay respects to the departed soul on the arrival of her dead body from Singapore. A Minister of State of the Union Government suggested to remove wraps and “name and honour her” by enacting a law against rape. This unique gesture carried further indication of something the media hitherto evaded reporting and unknown to India. This ipso facto raises the question: is it due to the social standing of the rape victim? Would the authorities or the media, many people are wondering, apportion as much sensitivity and extend similar gesture, besides bouquets of courtesies, for an underprivileged victim of sexual assaults or murder?

According to official records, three Dalit women are raped every day in India.14 The nation never felt embarrassed, anguished or shocked. Issues of their indignity have been treated with characterstic insolence and disdain at every level as preordained. The usual experience of the victims is that complaints from the underprivileged rape victims are not received at the thana. Besides, instances of the physicians entrusted to examine the victims lacking professional honesty and integrity are not only not rare but they are also found to be prejudiced. Their dishonest performance of duties ultimately benefit the offenders at the prosecution stage. The ignorant and illiterate victims are deliberately subjected to harrowing cross-examination during the court proceedings, when the learned magistrate rarely intervenes to protect them from further humiliation and acute harassment.

The Delhi rape incident is being handled as an exclusive issue of highest national priority, without according identical priority to all victims, irrespective of caste, creed, religion or place of birth. Sanctity of official protocol, on many counts, were thrown to the winds. The authorities have sent unmistakable signal that provision for super-special medical attention and treatment are the exclusive privilege of the high-born rape victims, if any or ever. The police filed charge-sheet with unprecedented alacrity in less than 15 days. The trial of the case by a fast-track court has already begun in-camera. All these developments are marked by a happy turn of events and merit loud appreciation. But an anxious question cries out for reply: Are these only peculiar to the Delhi rape victim in total exclusion of rest of the country? These measures would instil fear in the minds of the violators of dignity of women in privileged classes to commit crimes against them in future.

Wolves on Prowl: Injustice Anywhere is a Threat to Justice Everywhere

The wolves, who have hitherto confined their attention to Dalit and tribal girls, actually crossed over to new pastures and knocked the fortified doors on the high road of the Capital, shaking up the composure and complacence
of its privileged dwellers. Marking a sharp departure from their conventional victims, the predators, with equal brutality and fearlessness, have shown preference for well-educated, well-clad young women. This provoked the alarm furiously. Had the predators confined themselves to their traditional hunting grounds and aimed at the Dalit, tribal and other disadvantaged girls, India as well as Bharat, blissfully contented and enamoured of ancient cultural richness, would never have woken up from slumber. Little do they realise that fire in one house should be extinguished as an emergency, else it spreads to the neighbourhood causing damages and destruction indiscriminately to all. Negligence, failure or incompetence to curb crimes against one section actually encourages the criminals to expand their target-area to cover others too. If the tragedy on Delhi’s busy road was required to drive this point home: have the people at the helm learned a basic lesson at huge cost? Discrimination perhaps does not always pay.

The indelible feelings of discrimination, as ordained, have to be disabused most urgently from the minds of the millions of underprivileged countrymen—mostly Dalit, tribal and minority communities. To end this, the government should codify the scale of medical attention and treatment for all victims of rape and sexual assaults, irrespective of caste, creed, religion or place of birth as were provided to the Delhi victim. Let the cases of victims of all rape and sexual assault, irrespective of caste, creed, religion or place of birth of victims be tried by fast-track courts on the equal footing and promptitude as that of the Delhi rape victim. The government should pass an appropriate law by holding a special session of Parliament most urgently.

If this is not done, the apprehension of the marginalised sections of the society will be reinforced with the unshakable conviction that the government had succumbed to pressure exerted by media hype and agitation orchestrated and/or fanned by influential vested interests from behind the curtain to appease the high-born social classes exclusively. They would further believe that the authorities would use caste in future too as the line of demarcation to discriminate against the underdogs, a charge of bias the government would find difficult to erase from the minds of the country’s vulnerable multi-tudes. Failure of the government to address their grievances will result in a sad denouement.

1. Deutsche Welle TV, October 9, 2012. The channel, on October 22, 2012, again broadcast another story with the caption, “Controversial rape victim remarks unleash storm of protest”.
2. “Afghanistan, Congo and Pakistan are the world’s most dangerous countries for women due to a barrage of threats ranging from violence and rape to dismal healthcare and ‘honour killings’.” India and Somalia ranked fourth and fifth, respectively, in the global perceptions survey by Trust Law, Thomson Reuters Foundation expert poll showed Wednesday in London, June 15, 2011.
3. “Are our High Courts High Courts?”article in The Statesman, Kolkata, Wednesday, December 15, 2010. The writer is a Vice-Chancellor, National Law University, Orissa.
4. The Hindustan Times, August 19, 2000, newsitem captioned, “Women, Dalits want Manu’s statue removed”. In a memorandum of twenty organisations of women and Dalits addressed to the Chief Justice of the Rajasthan High Court, leaders of Manuvad Mitao Pratima Hatao Sanghrash Samiti said that three cases pertaining to removal of the statue of Manu were pending in the High Court for the past 11 years. Even after two decades the cases are awaiting disposal by the Rajasthan High Court.
5. International Dalit Solidarity Network Annual Report 2010.
6. Omar Abdullah, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, September 2, 2001 led an official delegation.
7. In The Indian Express, May 17, 2012, Minister for Social Justice and Empowerment, Government of India was quoted as saying in the Rajya Sabha: “With over one lakh cases of atrocities against SCs and STs pending, the government is considering amendments in the existing law to fast-track trial.”
8. According to The Guardian, London, “government data show that 134,757 people were arrested under the anti-dowry law but only 5739 people were convicted.” This implies conviction rate was 4.25 per cent.
9. Kautilya, The Arthashastra, L.N. Rangarajan, Penguin Books, 1992, p. 488. The Shankaracharya of Puri, Nischalanda Saraswati, at a press conference in Kolkata, January 16, 2013 held Western influence responsible for the rise in the incidence of rape arising out of erosion of cultural values. These holy men are afraid to look back and point the finger to the mythological heroes and their sexual exploits as eroding cultural values, polluting attitude and tearing the moral fabric into pieces.
10. Ibid., p. 112.
11. Ibid., p. 329.
12. Ibid., p. 323.
13. The Daily Mirror, London, December 5, 2013 made her name public, claiming to have obtained her father’s explicit, prior permission.
14. Concurrent Resolution [H. Con. Res. 139: 110th session] of the US Senate.

The author is a former Vice-Chancellor, Babasaheb Bhimrao Ambedkar Univrsity, Muzaffarpur, Bihar. For comments and observations, if any, please contact him at

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