Rajalakshmi, a young Dalit girl is beheaded, but does it matter to anybody in Tamil
Nadu? Or india as a whole? A state that takes pride in its language and its so-called
progressive culture, where the conception of culture is believed to be inclusive and
attentive to women, is time and again silent. The entire mainstream Tamil media lives
in denial about the brutal murder of a thirteen year-old girl. This horror won't matter to
them because it is not titillating, like what they made of, and reduced, Chinmayi's quest
for justice to. The release of Sarkar is much more important than the murder of a Dalit
girl in a remote village.
Does it matter to the wider democratic arena in the nation as a whole? Democracy in
this country is a farce because it is driven by the most elite caste collective to which such
episodes are mere signs of correction for resistance and progressive moves from the
subdued masses. The girl resisted and reported to her family the sexual harassment by
Dinesh, an upper caste, married man. The comeuppance of her resistance was the
taking of her life.
Dinesh, his wife claims (and the complicity of a woman in the brutal assault and
murder of another woman is chilling), is mentally disturbed. The question is what did
his wife and family do about it? Dinesh, who used a sickle to behead a thirteen year-old
girl is a person from a dominant caste who couldn't accept the fact that Rajalakshmi, a
Dalit girl, was capable of refusing him, hence he dismantled her head from her body,
It is easy to say it is the caste mindedness of some that contributed to this brutality. The
judicial system’s laggardness over decades of atrocities on Dalits shows that the whole
system is caste-minded. The silence of the mainstream media shows that the media as a
whole is caste-minded. That there are no mass protests across the state shows that the
whole of society is caste-minded.
We have become so immune to caste violence that even dramatic instances of it have
become a regularity in our day today life. The everyday nature of caste violence is so
much part of our common sense that we do not even see it. As of now, this will be yet another case of violence against a Dalit minor girl which will pass us by, one of those
cases that might add to the list of crime rates against Dalit women which are ignored
even in the accounting of violence against Dalits.
Caste has manured into our systems so much so that it doesn't matter to any body and
also doesn't matter anymore to the Dalits as well because, their entire life is so used to
such experiences, that they become immune to Hindu karmic-mindedness, a belief
system that most Dalits hold on to irrespective of the religious conversions among
many of them, as Christianity also asks them to suffer in this world for the kingdom of
heaven, something the Churches should think about.
The Me Too movement, while salutary, is marked by its class and caste confines. Me
Too is lapped up by the media, indeed it is social media where it is played out and
becomes a voyeuristic game (Who will fall today? What are the grisly details?) for the
middle classes. The experiences of young girls like Rajalakshmi, on the other hand, is a
dampener with no real interest bar the momentary excitement of a severed head being
carried around. Talk of caste kills that excitement fast.
Chinmayi's plight for justice, while legitimate, is more important than any Dalit woman
who get hunted down by the men in the households of Chinmayi's caste. The point here
is not to pit caste against gender but to show that caste matters to who can be heard and
what can be heard in the struggle against harassment and abuse. While Chinmayi is no
doubt heckled by a sexist Tamil media, that same media does not even bother to look at
Tamil Nadu (so-called progressive state) and the country as a whole (building multicrore
statues on the land of displaced adivasis) lives on hypocritical ideals of justice and
unity. Speaking of justice today justifies personal hierarchical mobility and a method to
deviate and divert from the pertinent issues and questions that shake our social,
political and religious grounds.
To speak of dignity and freedom of expression is a ploy of the offender too (indeed
Dinesh’s wife speaks of the audacity of the Dalit girl to cross their path). Tripping on
the entertainment industry as the best way to ease out of any interest in the beheading
of Rajalakshmi and its caste and communal background shows what a society we are.
The irony that Rajalakshmi wanted to become an IAS officer was lost on her but, more importantly, is lost on us. Caste is the poison that runs in our veins while we pretend it does not exist.
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