TRIGGER WARNING: GRAPHIC LANGUAGE
Babasaheb Ambedkar had said, ‘Those days of Maratha rule when women from untouchable castes were sexually assaulted and murdered would repeat themselves in India and those days aren’t far.’ These words highlight the realities of contemporary India, for the words of Babasaheb have come true. Violence against dalit women and their exploitation have become normalised. This is a tragic development. Rape, assault, or even murder of dalits, as “punishment” for minor “mistakes” shows us how strongly the caste system continues to prevail around us. We must understand that the upper castes “punishing” dalits still originate from their wish to shame and threaten the latter.
Following is a (non comprehensive) list of incidents of atrocities that were recently committed against dalits:
- Kolar: In a land related dispute, brothers from a dalit community were murdered by the upper castes.
- Jamakhandi: A dalit girl was sexually assaulted and hacked to death by a boy from the Lingayat community.
- Chikkanguru in Channagiri taluk: A labourer was hacked to death for demanding wages.
- Barabanki in Uttar Pradesh: An 18-year old dalit girl was sexually assaulted and killed.
- Aligarh: A Dalit girl was sexually assaulted and killed in March 2021.
- Fatehpur: In Lalauli village, a 20-year-old dalit girl was assaulted by Avaas Yadav and Guddu Yadav.
- Kakure village in UP: A fourteen year old dalit girl was assaulted and killed.
- Balaramapura: In October 2020, a minor girl was raped and her body was thrown at her doorstep.
- Baavedi village in Madhya Pradesh: A Dalit girl was assaulted and killed. The perpetrators are roaming about with full impunity till date.
As a person who hears about these atrocities almost everyday, I feel the urge to write about them.
The system that has come to power with the agenda of Hindutva is reinstating the atrocities that were committed by the Peshwas many years ago. The atrocities on dalits today testify the extent to which India is driven by casteism and communalism.
Madhu Hulisara, a dalit student in Naragunda, Gadag district, Karnataka was walking to school carrying a bag full of dreams. She was kidnapped, sexually assaulted and made to suffer acid attacks by those belonging to upper caste groups. This is the kind of cruelty experienced by dalits, especially women, in the region. Despite complaints registered at the Naragunda police station, no action has been taken.
What happened to Madhu is not an isolated incident. Similar atrocities have been reported and police cases have been registered in Kaladagi, Baagalkote district, the same month.
A dalit girl, daughter of a devadasi, from Santhebennur, Davanagere district, was romantically involved with a married man from an upper caste community. In December, the mother of the girl learnt that she was pregnant. A police complaint filed by the girl’s mother resulted in an informal meeting of the caste heads in the village. In this meeting, it was concluded that since the girl belonged to a lower caste, she couldn’t be taken in by Prasanna’s family. He was directed to rent a house for her and was made to pay a fine of ten thousand rupees.
The girl can neither go to school nor marry him. She is now preparing to become a devadasi just like her mother.
This is but a mere a glimpse of the nature of the atrocities committed against dalit communities.
Kulenooru, Channagiri district witnessed an inhuman attack on a dalit labourer by a Krishnamurthy from an upper caste community. Krishnamurthy, who owns a television dish connection agency, had reportedly asked the labourer to clear his dues. The labourer asked for time and this enraged Krishnamurthy who, along with a few thugs, pulled the labourer out on to the streets, tied him up to a street light, and attempted to murder him. According to Nilappa, a dalit leader and an eye witness, the labourer would have died if the police had not arrived on time. However, the police has not taken any action, despite a case having been registered under the Atrocities Act. Working hand in glove with the casteist political environment of the land, the police has now closed the case. Krishnamurthy and others roam around untouched till date.
As seen in all the above cases, the police of the region have very openly taken the side of the perpetrator instead of supporting the victim. This can be seen in another incident of sexual assault of a dalit labourer in Siddhanmatha, Davangere district as well. The victim is married to a drunk, has two kids, and is the sole breadwinner of the family. With the help of a few learned dalit youth in the neighborhood, the survivor could get medical attention and also filed a complaint against the perpetrator. The police registered an irrelevant caseleaving out the angle of rape. The case was re-opened due to pressure from local dalit rights organisations and Nagraj was imprisoned. However, he is currently out of prison. Nagraj has now fully received an impunity and he has been roaming around the village. What has happened to the survivor not only saddens but also enrages me. The victim has been ostracised by her family and the neighbourhood. She even attempted suicide, unable to bare the humiliation she is subjected to everyday. Her husband and children don’t live with her anymore and she continues to suffer in seclusion.
There is no limit to the “reasons” cited by upper castes to attack and abuse dalits. In an incident in a village in Nalkudare, a fifty six years old widowed dalit woman was harassed by upper-caste families because of a piece of fertile land owned by the woman. The woman acquired this land from the government and worked hard on it to cultivate coconut and areca. However, this plot of land was surrounded by the lands of those belonging to the upper castes. When the woman objected to selling her land to these families, her crops were destroyed. Those responsible were arrested under the Atrocities Act, but were later acquitted. Though she received a small compensation from the government, she is left with a land with no crops today.
In the Basapura village of Chitradurga district, a clash between some dalit youth and the leaders of the Lingayat community was reported last month. In this incident, the dalit youth were beaten up for dancing alongside the lingayat youth in a religious procession in the village. Not surprisingly, the case was prematurely closed by the Holalkere Police. In Nulenuru, a neighboring village, a dalit man named Parameshi was beaten up black and blue just because she sat in front of a shop. Parameshi was bedridden and no case has been registered against the shop owner. In another gruesome incident, a dalit labourer family was forced to take the body of their infant out of the tomb in the Koratagere taluk of Tumakuru district. The family had already buried the body of their infant who reportedly died due to the shock caused by the gelatin blasts in the nearby quarry. This incident got attention as a video went viral and the person who forced the couple to take out the buried body of their child has been absconding.
Here are the statistics of the 2020 Dalit Atrocities of the Karnataka Police Department: 1, 219 in 2018. There were 899 cases registered in 2019, from August 31, 2018 and from 2018 to August 2020, there were 428 rape and 263 murders committed on SC / ST women in the state. Thousands of cases are registered each year under the Prevention of Atrocities on Dalits. In at least 5 percent of these cases, the perpetrators are not punished. Uttar Pradesh and Karnataka have recently broken the Guinness record for Dalit atrocities.
These are however the cases registered by the government. Thousands of dalits are attacked every day and instead of getting their cases registered, they are forced to reach a compromise by the local panchayats run by upper castes. Many such incidents aren’t reported because people are worried of the shame and grief reporting these incidents would cause.
Translated by Yogesh S