Inscribed in the tragedy are rapacious systems of dominance.
As the pictures of the two young Dalit children, gangraped, murdered and hung from a tree in Badaun, circulate in the media, the despair and anger of the Dalits, women and children who are part of this spectacle of violence singes our everyday lives. The spectator-consumer of television and print media, however, is invited to participate in a familiar script, used each time an atrocity hits the media.
Our anger is directed at the language of the political class, which vacillates between sexist and statist responses. While one set of politicians defends rapists and rape cultures, the other set speaks of death penalty, stronger policing and awarding compensation.
We note a reluctance to acknowledge custodial rape as targeted caste atrocity, and gangrape as caste atrocity. The AIDWA fact-finding report tells us that the accused policemen have only been charged with abetting violence. There is a refusal to acknowledge that the rapacious bodies of police officers and their dominant caste bhai-bandhu targeted the bodies of Dalit children and produced a spectacle of terror for all Dalits to witness. This is how our children inherit caste — by watching mutely the lynched dead bodies of raped teenagers. To be a Dalit and working-class parent means never to recover from such a trauma. It means being told not to trust those police officials who act on behalf of the rapacious system of dominance.
Custodial rape as a specific form of rapacious state violence was named as a crime in 1983, in the aftermath of the Mathura rape agitation. Yet media debates fail to inform their anguished spectators that custodial rape rarely results in conviction, if the survivor lives to testify. The criminalisation of custodial rape has failed to challenge that culture of policing which is based on the premise that state power gives men a licence to rape with impunity and immunity. This culture is entrenched by the political class, which uses the police to shield rapists for the sake of competitive politics, gaining political power or deploying rape as a tool of terror. The use of and support to policemen, as perpetrators of sexual violence and torture, is the outcome of a series of systemic and systematised political arrangements.
First, policing is embedded in local contexts of dominance, where the dominant group stakes a claim on the monopoly over the use or abuse of law. When women, Dalits, tribals or other minorities try to challenge this monopoly over the use (or abuse) of the law, they are “taught a lesson” — be it in Khairlanji in Maharashtra or the courts of Tis Hazari in Delhi.
Second, sexual violence is a routine technique of terror. In other words, rape is continued…