An Unsung Nirbhaya In Kandhamal
By Asha Kowtal
14 January, 2013
She was young and carefree, exploring life and trying to live it to the fullest. As a young girl she wanted to look beautiful, study well and become an independent and confident woman. She used to enjoy her time with her friends and looked forward to go out and watch a movie with her male friend.
Late one evening, the thrill and the excitement of the movie ended in the brutal gang rape and death of the young girl.
This is not the recent story of Delhi’s braveheart . . .
This is the story of a young girl in a remote village in Kandhamal district of Odisha. On Oct. 26, 2012, she went to watch a movie with her male friends from her village during the Dussera celebrations. She was brutally assaulted, gang raped and murdered. The next morning, her body was found in the bushes nearby.
This case resembles the recent Delhi case in all aspects, except that the ‘outrage’ expressed from all corners of the country differs vastly.
None of the politicians apologized to the country, none of the media persons demanded an answer for the crime, none of the Bollywood personalities shed tears for her, none of the feminists wore black for her, none of the students’ groups held protests and candle marches for her.
There is no memorial for this girl. There never will be. Her life is over; she is snuffed out – not just from this world but from our memory and conscience as well. Did we even let her into our memory and conscience?
How do we her value life? While Rs. 15,00,00 has been offered as compensation for Nirbhaya, the Tehsildhar has given Rs.10,000 to this girl’s family in Kandhamal.
Is it a coincidence that her family is Dalit, landless and extremely poor?
The blankness in the faces of her parents and siblings expresses the fact that Justice Verma Committee and its recommendations will remain just as unknown and distant to them, resembling the sorrow of the loss of their dear girl, which remains unknown and distant to the rest of the world.
Please read about many more unsung Nirbhayas in Kandhamal: Rape and Murder of Dalit & Minority Girls in Kandhamal – Fact Finding Report. This report gives a glimpse of the myriad struggles of the rape survivors. Their struggles reveal the deeply structural nature of patriarchal hostility deployed towards the survivors and victims of sexual crimes, and towards redress and rehabiliation processes. All systems, from Child Protection Services to Police to Courts that are meant to ensure the safety and well being of all women citizens are completely dysfunctional for girls and women from the most vulnerable sections.
I am in solidarity with ALL rape survivors and victims. But believe strongly that without unraveling the intersections of caste and patriarchy, no legislation will have any meaning in the lives of Dalit women. Dismantling institutions that reek of patriarchy and caste discrimination is a long haul for anti-caste feminism and all women – from the margins to the center, from the poorest to the most empowered women – stand to live in a better world if that’s done..
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