The horror of Hathras

©️Spoorthy Raman

By now, I hope the country has awakened to the gut-wrenching reality of women in India. Here is a one-line summary: A young dalit girl was gang-raped by higher-caste men, left to die, and after a struggle of two weeks, she finally gave up only to be denied the basic right of a funeral by her family.

In a country that sees a rape reported every 15 minutes, this is not the first and will never be the last. But this story is disturbing for many many reasons, not just one.

As the buddʰa said, there is no house that hasn’t seen death. Death of anyone at any age and by any cause is agonising for the family. Haven’t we all moistened our eyes on the passing of a loved one who, as we know, lived a long life to the fullest? Death is pain, period.

To die at a budding age of 19 is unfortunate, unnatural, and hard to stomach.

To be killed by grave injuries, caused by a horrific act, unleashed by oppressors who have been at this business for years is beyond coming to terms with, ever. Wounded, violated, mauled and left to die is barbaric, to say the least. Yet, this happens in 21st century India.

To be a victim of the caste hierarchy and to face a brutal death because of being born in a caste that she did not choose, is inhumane. Despite what is said, the politics of caste in this country is nauseating. Arrests were only made after ten days or about 250 hours, after the assault. How do you convince this family that we have a system of justice and it works? 

The final nail in the coffin, ironically and metaphorically, came today. Every being (human or not) deserves a farewell worthy of dignity. The family has the absolute right to see the dead for one last time and cremate or bury them based on their choices. No one should snatch that away.

Yet, in the dead of the night, amidst the wail of a family which is already so pained, the authorities became as complicit as the rapists in denying this basic right. Instead of standing with the victim, they sided the oppressors in snatching everything that was left. Their speeches to the family, as recorded by the media, were filled with sickening patriarchy. In a pyre, she went up in flames, perhaps, wailing as much, disillusioned with fellow-country(men?) and to a better place.

If these are the issues we are not talking about today, how do we explain what we as a country believe in, fight for and stand by? A call for the death penalty in a country in the 21st century is not what we need. We need a system that protects us, not them. We need justice served on time, not later. We need minds sown with knowledge and humanity, not privilege. We need a system that teaches human to treat others humanely.

If you can, don’t identify yourself with the oppressor. Stand with the oppressed. You owe it to this little girl and million others like her. You owe it to everyone who was oppressed for year — beyond the labels of gender and caste.

Update from 1st October:

Oh and now there are miracles. There was no rape, countrymen! There was just immense brutality, a big cover-up, and a political bait. Nothing to see, nothing to cry. Did it make your day? It should because miracles do happen in our country. A 400-year old mosque demolishes itself with the act (and perhaps the consent) of God, the economy plunges due to the act of God and ours is definitely God’s own country. Miracles do happen.

Update on 26th October:

How to become better anti-caste allies by नेहा अगरवाला | Neha Agarwala critiques this piece and hopes to strike a conversation looking into the future.

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