There comes a moment in a nation’s life when the entire nation has no choice but to mourn deeply and with such angst that even nature cries where the sky and the earth share this infinite tragedy causing the crumbling of the civilization in a disorderly heap. It seems all the knowledge, values, ethical conduct and the norms of a shared and peaceful coexistence, which we have inherited, have collapsed like a pack of cards and nothing but dry leaves and arid dust float in the horizon. Voices are choked, a strange anxiety and helplessness stalks the streets and inside the comfort zones of ‘safe homes’, and an entire nation weeps silent tears.
The Dalit daughter of Hathras lived and died in her last moments like a trapped human being: brutalized beyond words or imagination conceivable in a civilized society. She was degraded and ripped apart, her tongue cut, her spinal chord broken, her body beaten into pulp and bruised, her entire life dehumanized and destroyed by some barbarians. Even her funeral pyre had no family to grieve for her, or her neighbours, community and friends around to hold each other’s hands in this endless hour of relentless grief. Pray, as reports point out, how can the police and administration refuse to give her the dignity of last rights, or a dignified funeral in the presence of her family, relatives, friends and community? Why did they do what they did, after such a prolonged delay, even as she struggled to live, to speak out, to seek and demand justice?
In a country where mob-lynching or police atrocities have become a norm, where justice seems distant, elusive and impossible, where peaceful young protesters and scholars are packed off to prisons on fabricated charges under draconian laws, dissent is a crime, where the media is obsessed with the daily drama of crass, crude, obscene fake and titillating news , and where truth is put on a daily funeral pyre, the Dalit daughter of Hathras might again become a tragic travesty of too little justice in the face of such magnitude of brutality and injustice
Breaking legs and spinal cords, inflicting unbearable wounds on the women’s bodies, beating them into pulp, after multiple assaults and violations of her self and dignity seems to be trending in Yogi’s Uttar Pradesh. There seems no fear of law or punishment. After Hathras, Balrampur in UP has become another black spot in the state when it comes to barbaric violence against women. This time a young college student was brutalized, her body smashed into pulp, and left to die in a rickshaw. Imagine the shock and despair of her family! How much more grotesque and deathly can this get?
In a country where Dalits are hounded and brutalized as a ritual, Hathras and Balrampur rape is yet another gruesome milestone of caste and social oppression. The violence inflicted on her speaks of the social tension embedded in caste hierarchy and totalitarian power. In this hegemonic inequality, a Dalit girl’s life, her body and soul, can be ravaged and destroyed with impunity. Depressingly, there is no hope in these current era of total hopelessness.
In a country where Dalits are hounded and brutalized as a ritual, as a daily chronicle foretold, this is yet another gruesome milestone of caste and social oppression. The violence inflicted on her speaks of the big picture of social violence which is embedded in the political unconscious of both caste hierarchy and the dominant discourse of totalitarian power. In this hegemonic inequality, a Dalit girl’s life, her body and soul, can be ravaged , and there does not seem an iota of hope in the horizon. There is no hope floating anywhere in this current era of total hopelessness.
In 2013, during the UPA government’s tenure in Delhi, a young paramedic with dreams and rainbows in her eyes was brutalized in a similarly grotesque manner by some barbarians in a Delhi bus. The Munirka bus stand in south Delhi stands testimony to that horrible moment in the life of a ‘globalised’ metropolitan city like the capital of our republic. That bus stand thereby triggered waves of massive protests in the heart of Lutyens’ Delhi, so close to the power centres, the South Block and Parliament, that it shook the very insides of the government. Thousands of young men and women, in relentless waves of protests, challenged the might of the Indian State, the entrenched notions of violent and dominant patriarchy, the partisan institutions of law and order, and the very basis of so called gender freedom and gender justice. To the credit of the UPA government, they reacted with sympathy and sensitivity and did not retaliate or snuff out opposition voices like how NDA is treating the protestors this time around.
The right to mobility for women, the freedom to express, the right to wear whatever they want, the right to total equality in a male-dominated society, became the dominant discourse on the streets, inside homes and in work spaces. Indeed, like in the movement against corruption, the media left all notions of its detached objectivity, and literally joined the movement, becoming the voice of the youngsters, which became the voice of the entire nation. Laws were changed quickly, women’s rights were yet again re-asserted and redefined, and the established culture and ethos of patriarchy was challenged to its very foundations. Undoubtedly, there were retaliations by entrenched male lobbies in some parts of India, but this movement for justice and equality had captured the nation’s imagination.
Since then, all governments, including the current one ruling in Delhi and Lucknow, have pledged and vowed to create totally safe spaces for women – this was the election promise of Narendra Modi in 2014, along with ‘acche din’ among other grand promises. So whatever happened to that pledge and that promise? Has it changed and challenged the dominant discourse of brutality and degradation inflicted on women routinely and ritualistically? Has it changed the entrenched male value systems of violence and barbarism, especially against women? Has it reaffirmed women’s fundamental right to mobility and freedom to express and live and chase their dreams with dignity? Has it really changed the political and social consciousness of the dominant ideologies ruling the roost in contemporary times, often with daily injustice and bad faith stalking the land, almost as a daily ritual?
A nation which is ashamed of itself can only weep silent tears. A nation which seeks to find a new discourse of dignity, freedom and equality, and safe spaces to dream and grow for the young, especially women, might one day find its redemption. That will be a different kind of nation, a different society. Indeed, will it ever be possible in our life and times?
Indeed, in a country where mob-lynching or police atrocities have become a norm, where justice seems distant, elusive and impossible, where peaceful young protesters and scholars are packed off to prisons on fake and fabricated charges under draconian laws, where young minds are clearly given the signal that dissent is a crime, where the media is obsessed with the daily drama of crass, crude, cacophonic and obscene fake and titillating news 24 hours and, seven days every week, and where truth is put on a daily funeral pyre as a public spectacle, the dalit daughter of Hathras might again become a tragic travesty of too little justice in the face of such magnitude of brutality and injustice. In contrast, the destruction and brutalization of her self and body, can become a metaphor and trigger kaleidoscopic and cyclonic waves of mass unrest and peaceful protests seeking not only justice, but also a different kind of society and civilization, a different State and social system, where the nation’s daughters are not assaulted and murdered in the manner she was assaulted and murdered.
A nation which is ashamed of itself can only weep silent tears. A nation, which seeks to find a new discourse of dignity, freedom and equality, and safe spaces to dream and grow for the young, especially women, might one day find its redemption. That will be a different kind of nation, a different society. Indeed, will it ever be possible ?