What the beheading of a TN Dalit girl says about us

Last Updated: Tue, Nov 13, 2018 09:34 hrs

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 Rajalakshmi.

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.

Read more at:

Miners you should be wary of Rajinikanth and Sterlite's Anil Agarwal

The Dalit Erasure of Ilayaraja

The case of Dr M Mariraj: Caste is all around us

Dalits, Tamil cinema and Tamil society

Rev. Immanuel Nehemiah is a pastor at two churches in Zuzuwadi, Hosur and Electronic City, Bangalore.

Note: The views expressed in the article are the author’s and not of Sify.com