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Mainstream, VOL LVIII No 43, New Delhi, October 10, 2020

Culture of Rape | Sukumaran C.V.

Saturday 10 October 2020, by Sukumaran C.V.

It almost seems as if rape is the favorite pastime of the males of this country.—Saraswati Haider.

Three women including a well-known dubbing artist in the capital city of Kerala have physically attacked or manhandled (the correct usage is womanhandled) a man for a video he has uploaded on YouTube in which he talks indecent, obscene and abominable things about women.

It was really nauseating to hear his obscene talk. His indecent blabbering about the feminists in general and in particular about the well known Malayalam poetess who was the first chairperson of the Women’s Commission of Kerala and the well-known dubbing artist will make you wonder how a man is emboldened to speak such vulgarity about women in a video and upload it on YouTube. And this video has been watched by people for over a month. The dubbing artist has even lodged a complaint with the cyber cell of the police. Yet the video was neither deleted nor stopped from being visible on the internet. Outright misogyny thrives in our cyberspace and it is filled with verbal abuse and vulgarity against the female even if we have cyber laws and cyber police to check such indecency.

The irony is it is in this same God’s Own Country the police clamped UAPA on two youths for the ’crime’ of having some pamphlets related to leftwing extremism in their possession!

But the police was nonchalant in this case of outright violation of the dignity and modesty of women. The three women resorted to the radical step only because the law and the law enforcement agency remained insensitive and callous. When the man was womanhandled, the police rose into action, the man was arrested and YouTube was asked to delete the video and it was deleted. (Now a witch hunt against the women is going on for ’taking the law hands’. The anticipatory bail application in the case registered against them for womanhandling the man was objected by the Kerala police in court on the ground that if bail is granted to them, it will encourage others too to take law in hands!)

Immediately after this heartening news of the assertive action of women in Kerala, it was really disheartening to hear the horrible news of the rape in Hathras and the subsequent death of the victim.

On the FB wall of J. Devika, the well-known feminist intellectual of Kerala, I have seen ’A chronology of recent acts of sexual violence in Uttar Pradesh’. It is frightening:

  • "March 3, 2020 : Two sisters, aged 9 and 10, were raped repeatedly for several days by two men from their village in Mau district.
  • August 6, 2020 : A 6 year-old girl was kidnapped and raped in Garhmukteshwar Kotwali, Hapur district
  • August 14, 2020 : A 13-year-old Dalit girl was raped and killed in Lakhimpur Kheri.
  • August 15, 2020 : A teenager was raped, her body singed with cigarette butts, in Gorakhpur. Gorakhpur is the Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister’s assembly constituency.
  • August 21, 2020 : A young woman of Kanhai village in Jaswantnagar Police Station of Etawah alleged that she was raped by a local BJP politician. When she and her family tried to file a complaint at the police station, the local police personnel allegedly threatened to book the father of the woman on the charge of raping his own daughter.
  • August 22, 2020 : A teenager reported being held captive and raped repeatedly by up to 12 men over several days in the rural hinterland of Varanasi.
  • August 25, 2020 : The raped and mutilated body of a 17-year-old Dalit girl was found in Lakhimpur Kheri.
  • August 25, 2020 : A 12 year old girl was raped in Greater Noida.
  • September 14, 2020 : A 19 year old Dalit girl was gang-raped in Hathras.
  • September 29, 2020 : The victim of the Hathras gang-rape succumbed to her injuries in a Delhi hospital."

It was nearly a quarter-century ago I read in an article written by Saraswati Haider: ‘It almost seems as if rape is the favourite pastime of the males of this country.’ (‘Bandit Queen and Woman Question’, Mainstream, March 23, 1996.)

How contemporaneous the sentence sounds still! A woman is gang-raped and killed, the police set ablaze the body by pouring petrol on it. The people who belong to the caste of the rapists assemble together in large numbers to show their might. And such things happen in Atmanirbhar India!

Why such inhumanity is perpetrated against the less privileged people in India even after 75 years of Independence? Does it happen only because Mr Ajay Mohan Singh Bisht alias Yogi Adityanath and team rule?

Why do the Dalits remain less privileged still in the states like UP, MP and Bihar? Saraswati Haider’s article was published in 1996 when the NDA was not even formed. If those who have ruled the country since Independence really tried to ameliorate the socio-economic condition of the less privileged, can Mr Modi and his friends like the Yogi metamorphose the largest democracy into a goonda raj as it is today? The present socio-political deterioration of India is not the result of six years of Modi rule alone. It culminated in this six years, but it was in the making in the preceding 69 years.

P Sainath’s wonderful book Everybody loves a good drought, which is ’a stinging anatomy of health and educational predicaments, usury, drought...’ was first published in 1996. In the book there is a chapter titled "This Is the Way We Go to School: Getting educated in rural India" in which Sainath says: "The actual gap between SC/ST literacy levels and those of the non-SC/ST population grew worse between 1961 and 1981. The all India figure for literacy among Dalit women is 10.9 percent. Teachers from SC/ST groups are few. In many districts, such groups make up large chunks of the population. But that seldom reflects in their numbers among schoolteachers.

"Denying the poor access to knowledge goes back a long way. The ancient Smriti political and legal system drew up vicious punishments for Sudras seeking learning. ... In modern polity, where the base-born have votes, the elite act differently. Say all the right things. But deny access. Sometimes, mass pressures force concessions. Bend a little. After a while, it’s back to business as usual. ... So Dalit and Adivasis still have it worst. Fewer SC/ST students are enrolled in the first place. Next, their drop-out rates are higher. Of non-SC/ST students, nearly sixty of every hundred enrolled drop out in classes VI-VIII. For Dalits, that figure is seventy and for tribals, eighty. So those most needing an education are largely filtered out by class VIII.

"But we can hear the right things being said. In the recent past, governments have spoken with passion of promoting literacy. We have a National Literacy Mission to show for it. While many of its aims and deeds deserve your support, there is a sleight of hand involved here. For a government trying to dump its duties towards its children, literacy has another goal. You can, over time, peddle it as a substitute for education. Making a virtue of literacy is one thing. Making it a tool to further reduce government involvement in education is another thing.

"As Professors Amartya Sen and Jean Dreze point out: ’Literacy rates in India are much lower than China. They are lower than literacy rates in many east and south-east Asian countries at the time of their rapid expansion thirty years ago. They are lower than the average literacy rates for low-income countries other than China and India. And also lower than estimated literacy rates in sub-Saharan Africa.’"

This is the way India has travelled to the Modi-Shah-Yogi era. What we see around us is not the result of some years; it is the result of many decades.

If still the politicians and parties in the so-called secular camp are only thinking to utilise the shocking socio-political deterioration of the country under the Modi rule to come into power and then go ’back to business as usual’, the nation is not going to eradicate atrocities against the less privileged people and sexual crimes against the females, and revitalise the secular democracy that stands vandalised.

What we have to correct are not the wrongs of the six years, but that of the preceding sixty-nine years too.

PostScript: The day before the Hathras girl died, a subtle kind of atrocity was committed in Kerala against a talented Mohiniyatam dancer who belongs to the Dalit community. He applied for an online dance programme for which the Kerala Sangeetha Nataka Academy invited applications. But he was denied the chance because of his caste and he himself revealed the painful experience in an FB post on Sept. 29. He says that the Secretary of KSNA told him that ‘the activities of the Academy have been excellent for the last four years and if he (the dancer) is given the opportunity to participate in the event, it will damage the image of the Academy and it will be equal to using a pot to draw water the whole day and break it in the evening.’ The Secretary is appointed by the ’secular’ government and he is given salary from the public exchequer and the Academy is a government institution to promote art and artists. But the Secretary didn’t have any qualms to deny a dancer the chance to participate in a programme organized by the government institution only because the talented artist belongs to a lower caste! Doesn’t such audacity/outright violation of democratic ethos sprout from the feudal mindset that believes fine arts belong only to the upper castes? And Kerala government is, of course, a ’secular democratic’ one led by ’left’ parties! The dancer is a well-qualified man with Diploma, Post Diploma, M. Phil., Ph. D., UGC NET in Mohiniyatam. The dejected artist tried to commit suicide after scribbling these sentences: “I am unable to stand this torture. I am putting an end to my travails. Let there be an art world devoid of caste discrimination.” [1] It means that in India, whether a state is the most educated or not; whether ruled by ‘secular’/‘left’ parties or not, atrocities are perpetrated against the Dalits. In the most educated states it happens in subtle forms and in others it happens in the raw forms, that is the only difference.

In 2017, two Dalit girls aged 9 and 13 at Walayar in Palakkad district of Kerala were subjected to sexual abuse and one after the other, they ‘committed’ suicide. The accused, with strong political hold could easily sabotage the case with their influence. The police officer who investigated the case had ‘reportedly even made derogatory remarks about the girls saying they “enjoyed” sexual abuse.’ [2] Those hapless girls who were abused and hanged to death were just 9 and 13 years old; they were little children. And the police officer who investigated the case, who is under the direct control of a ’communist’ Chief Minister, says the little girls were enjoying sex with the abusers! He succeeded to sabotage the case and got promoted, instead of being punished.

This case in Kerala may be different from that of Hathras in Uttar Pradesh. But they were also Dalit girls (and they were minors) and they were also sexually abused and killed, and the involvement of the police and the government to help the accused is also clear. This is the same thing that happens in the case of the Hathras girl. Of course, it is not as overt as in Uttar Pradesh. Does that make any difference? In Uttar Pradesh the accused/culprits are overtly helped by the police and the ruling dispensation; elsewhere the accused/culprits are covertly helped by the police and the rulers.

(The classic example is a POCSO case in which the accused is a BJP leader in Kerala. He is the school teacher of the girl and in school he repeatedly abused the girl. [3]Kerala is ruled by the LDF government and the police force is controlled by the Chief Minister who belongs to the CPI(M) and yet the investigation officer sabotaged the case and virtually traumatized the girl. The Left parties are supposed to be staunch opponents of the BJP. But when it comes to criminal cases where the victims are hapless people like the little girl, the accused are helped irrespective of the political divide! There are many such cases. Years ago an honest auditor of a public sector undertaking of Kerala government and his two little sons aged 10 and 8 were killed and their bodies were found hanging from the roof of their home. He was a whistleblower and crusader against the all-pervasive corruption in the public sector enterprise involving crores of rupees. [4] The people behind the crime are business magnates with strong political influence and hence nobody has still been punished in the case and nobody will ever be.)

The atrocities against the women and Dalits (and the honest people) are committed everywhere in India irrespective of the colour and ideology of the ruling parties concerned. The foundation of caste prejudice and patriarchal misogyny on which our sociopolitical superstructure is built should fundamentally be overhauled to create a social milieu which enables us to have a human culture that transcends the prevailing religious-caste and gender-biased culture in which communal hatred, caste and gender superiority/inferiority and gender violence or sexual abuse against the women are taken for granted.


[1See the news reports:
“Renowned classical dancer attempts suicide, alleges caste, gender discrimination”, The New Indian Express, October 7, 2020.
"Protest against Kerala Sangeetha Nataka Akademi’s ‘denial’ of opportunity to dancer”, The Hindu, October 4, 2020.

[2See the news reports:
“Mother of Walayar sisters writes to Kerala CM against promotion of cop who botched case”, The NEWS Minute, June 19, 2020.
“Walayar minor sisters’ rape case: Everything you need to know”, The Indian Express, October 31, 2019.
“Walayar case accused rearrested, granted bail”, The Hindu, March 17, 2020.
“Reading the judgement: How justice for Walayar sisters was let down by a shoddy probe”, The NEWS Minute, October 28, 2019.

[3See the news reports:
“Palathayi Child Abuse case: After absconding for a month, school teacher arrested for sexually abusing Class 4 student”, m.edexlive.com, April 15, 2020.
“Kerala police drops POCSO Act against BJP leader accused of sexual assault on schoolgirl, court grants bail”, National Herald, July 17, 2020.
“Palathayi sexual abuse case: Demand for IG’s ouster gets louder”, Times of India, July 26, 2020.
“Palathayi child abuse case: Councillors’ report hard to digest, say experts”, The New Indian Express, August 30, 2020.

[4See the news reports:
“Kerala hero’s family killed over anti-corruption fight”, Indian Express, Feb.3, 2011.
“CBI to probe into death of Malabar Cements official, children”, The Hindu, Feb.7, 2011.
“CBI names MD of Malabar Cements in FIR in Sassendra’s death”, Times of India, March 21, 2011.
“Malabar Cements corruption case: victim’s wife receives threat against seeking justice”, Times of India, Jan. 27, 2014.
“How the death of a whistleblower and two sons in 2011 has come back to haunt the CPI(M)”, The NEWS Minute, May 19, 2015.

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