Badaun Case And The Conspiracy Of The Upper-Caste
By Devika Mittal
11 June, 2014
The tragic badaun case wherein two Dalit girls were gang-raped and their bodies were hanged from a tree has created an uproar in the Indian public sphere. There are widespread protests, regular media reports and debates on this case. It has also found 'concern' internationally. It has managed to touch upon the 'sensibilities' of the upper caste urban Indians but not without their hypocrisy.
While they are 'sympathetic' and consider this as 'tragic', they sniff over the mention of the caste of the victims. Why to mention the caste? How is it relevant at all? I see people even condemning the newspapers for mentioning the caste. "Shame on you for mentioning the caste. Every rape case is equally tragic", "Don't promote caste system!”
I find that while they find it 'tragic', they are not ready to 'accept' it as a case exposing the shameful reality of caste-based discrimination. They demand to see them as "victims", as "human beings". They even argue that a victim is a victim irrespective of her caste, class and they say it with a sense of pride, with a self-declared sense of being ‘fair’ and ‘just’. I find this tragic as it shows that how they are so privileged and so alienated from that reality that for them, mentioning the caste is unnecessary, that caste is a non-issue. They, who do not experience caste system as victims, fail to understand or imagine the caste factor here. They see caste only as "politics", as "a debate about reservation" and nothing else. They are not able to imagine that how there is a strong link between caste and rape. Rape is used as a weapon by upper or dominant castes to assert their identity on the underprivileged castes. They are ignorant that this is among the few cases of caste-based violence that has managed to get the attention of mainstream media and is witnessing such a widespread ‘outrage’. They are ignorant that such cases especially of sexual violence against underprivileged caste women are a common reality of this caste-based society.
If some of them do also 'acknowledge' this caste-based discrimination, they regard it to be a 'tragedy' of rural India. They feel 'sad' and condemn it to be so 'unprogressive', showing a 'bad picture of India'. Caste is a horrible thing, they would argue. We are all equal. This is such a strong conviction that it ends the moment they get to know that their friend is from a "reserved" category. This strong conviction lasts when their parents struggles to find a suitable match for them.
This apathy and ignorance towards caste shows how deeply-rooted the caste system remains. They are unable to see the caste factor not because it is just a political tool but because they are privileged enough to see it as a non-issue. As the dominating section, they are alienated from the lived experience of the underprivileged castes. They cannot see caste because they do not experience it as victims. While there is a section among the upper-caste urbanites who think it is nice to say that caste system is absolutely unprogressive and should be done away with, there are also those who though condemn the discrimination but uphold the caste system. This bunch of the self-declared ‘liberals’ are convincing people to believe that caste system was nothing more than a division of labour based on consent. The problem was when it became arbitrary and binding. They refuse to believe that the caste system in its core is inhuman. We are still a deeply casteist society. What ‘modernity’ seems to have added are these contradictory views and this new level of alienation achieved by the upper-caste urbanites. They not only neglect the caste issue, they are not even able to ‘recognise’ it. But the reality remains intact. By ‘denying’ caste in the Badaun case, they are ‘denying’ the social reality of caste-based violence.
Devika Mittal, M.Phil student of Sociology at Delhi School of Economics
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