Nothing can explain what drove those criminals to subject an innocent girl to such unimaginable violence in New Delhi last year. The nation erupted in retaliation, demanding the worst-possible punishment to the rapists. “Death to all” brought solace to some, justice to others. In some cases, both. In some other cases, neither.
But to call it “victory” or “justice” would mean belittling the brutality that countless women suffer at the hands of criminals who walk around guilt-free in every nook and corner of this country. How do we explain the oppression Dalit women often suffer? These crimes never even find a mention in the National Crime Report Bureau. They have happened before, they are happening now and will go on forever.
Rape comes in many forms. Here’s one that happened on August 29, 2001. A Dalit woman was paraded naked in her village for allegedly encouraging an inter-caste marriage between an ‘upper’ caste girl and ‘lower’ caste boy.
Nothing has changed in more than a decade. Not even the way we define rape and the degree of brutality. Because every case is “the rarest of rare” to those who have been subjected to it.
(Written for The Times of India, August 30, 2001).
Nude parade: Guardians of nakedness?
Dehumanisation is real. It happens in real life; it happens to stigmatised people. It has happened to us, to women. – Andrea Dworkin.
Yes, it has happened here in Bellary district. A woman was rendered naked, paraded. Many, including the panoptical media, termed it yet another casteist inanity and the police investigation will be hemmed in by similar opinions: the region, the religion, the caste, the creed, the class, the time… But these only gilded the crime with the finest of vulgarity crazed with misogyny. They were the layers of her clothing and beneath them was a real woman.
The disgrace that the victim Yerramma (40) was subjected to is nothing but rape, albeit of another form. She has experienced it at the hands of men, they have done it to her, worn her down, left her vulnerable.
The criminals had more in mind than mere caste calculations: that it was her nudity; that she is a woman. She suffered all this for the crime against which she pleads innocence: “nangoo, adakkoo enoo sambandha ilree (I had nothing to do with that).”
After all, what sort of crime could endorse this punishment? Her daughter who came in for help was also rendered semi-nude, that is if nudity is to be measured by the number of clothes women wear and even their thickness.
The shame that is put into women’s mind is the best attire that men think is `pertinent’ to be taken off, whenever.
The villagers were scared of clashes (stone-throwing?). Nobody offered any help the hour so needed. The shrivelled hearts didn’t wait and watch. In fact, they watched and waited. The woman was made to walk nude and later tied to a flag-post. The act went on for two hours. Men stood guard to her nudity.
The guardians of nakedness?
No clash took place. Everything had happened.
In this theatre of the absurd, there was no distance between the proscenium and the audience; between the perpetrators and the perpetrated; the sinned and the sinned against. Everyone walked into and out of the proscenium, the interface melted and the degenerate men put on impotent masks at their own will. The silent ones were, nonetheless, perpetrating the crime. It doesn’t take any particular caste to be sane or humane. The denouement was what the men always had in mind. The act was just the objectification of the same.
Everything was scarce there, except insanity.
Juxtapose this with the nude parade the Devadasis perform or rather are made to. Here everything is couched in religious rubric; it’s agreed if women want to do it out of reverence to their goddess; but what if they disagree?
Would Yerramma’s nudity be the same as ever? The object of sadist fantasies and the grotesque spectacle that she was made; would she ever be proud of her body, her own being?
Yerramma makes one recall Dopdi, an adivasi woman in Bengali writer Mahashwetha Devi’s book. Dopdi is gang-raped by `civilised’ men and the rapists take away her clothes. The gritty Dopdi walks straight back into the village. Villagers ridicule her, in fact her nudity, and ask if she isn’t ashamed of herself.
Dopdi retorts: “what shame before you shameless men?”