Delta’s death creates outrage
The alleged rape and murder of a young Dalit girl has gone virtually unnoticed by the mainstream media
Akshay Sharma Delhi
Still steeped in feudal and patriarchal structures, Rajasthan has seen many cases of caste-related violence in the past. However, a new incident has raised the bar when it comes to caste-related violence, in a very grotesque manner. The alleged rape and murder of a 17-year-old Dalit girl, Delta Meghwal, in Nokha municipality in Bikaner in Rajasthan, has led to protests across the state and elsewhere. She was pursuing a degree from Jain Adarsh Teacher Training Institute in Nokha. Her dead body was found on March 29 in a water tank of the hostel where she had been staying.
According to the FIR filed by her parents, one day before, on March 28, she had called her parents and told them that she had been raped by her PT instructor. The college administration, according to college sources, deemed the incident a “mutually consensual act” and got both her and the PT instructor to “apologise” instead of acting against the accused. The case is clouded with mystery and contradictions. Locals call it a “sinister” attempt to cover up rape and murder.
The trajectory of events gets even more disturbing as the dead body of Delta was carried, after its discovery, by the police in a ‘garbage tractor’. This has led human rights groups and concerned citizens to believe that she was murdered to sweep things under the carpet. There are allegations that the police has either shown laxity or complicity in not pursuing the case seriously.
Talented Delta had secured the first place in a state-level art competition while studying in the 9th Standard. As a seven-year-old, she had one of her artworks published in a magazine published by the Rajasthan Secretariat.
While the whole truth of Delta's death may take some time to come out, serious questions are being raised about the status of oppressed communities in Rajasthan. Ashok Das, editor of Delhi-based Dalit Dastak magazine, while talking to Hardnews, said, “How could the administration deem an act of rape as consensual? Why do 95 per cent of sexual assault cases involve Dalit women? Is it because people believe that it is easy to target Dalit girls?” He added, “This incident reflects the old mindset of a caste-ridden society. They think Dalit girls won’t be able to defend themselves. It is shameful that the police carried her body in a garbage tractor -- this shows the feudal, anti-Dalit mentality of the police.”
Bhanwar Meghwanshi, an activist and journalist based in Bhilwara, Rajasthan, called it a case of “institutional murder”. He believes that the administration has been trying to suppress the whole matter. Speaking over the phone to Hardnews, he said that that her family and civil society members are demanding a CBI probe. “If not CBI, a special probe team must be constituted,” he said.
He also talked about the larger problems being faced by the Dalits in the state, “There seems to be an increase in crimes against Dalits. In recent days there have been other incidents of violence and brutality against members of the community.” On being asked if the BJP-led state government was responsive on the issue of atrocities on Dalits, he said, “At least, the previous government used to hear the plea of Dalits and showed some sensitivity; the current dispensation does not do that. The BJP does not react to such incidents. In the last elections, Dalits supported the BJP but their leaders remain silent on issues of atrocities on Dalits. They are seemingly not able to express their opinion.”
The alleged rape and murder of young Delta Meghwal, and the degrading manner in which her dead body was carried in a garbage tractor by the police has outraged human rights activists and students in Rajasthan and elsewhere. The social media is full of messages for solidarity in support of Delta. Facebook messages are pointing out that even as the country is coping with the outrage after the suicide of Dalit Phd scholar Rohith Vemula, and the government’s insensitive and violent reaction, the tragedy of Delta has shocked the student community yet again; this shows the ugly underbelly of this nation.
This death of Delta has led to protests across the country. On Monday, April 4, JNUSU protested against the incident in Delhi. Students allege that the mainstream media has not taken note of this atrocity which is further adding to the angst of the Dalit community.