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up gang rape

Don’t criticize the functioning of the social structure; raise your voice against any particular issue in isolation and do not criticize any social happening from the perspective of its intrinsic and complex connection with the societal structure.

Do not ferret out its multi dimensions and do not try to go down to its roots. Enough that you focus on the linear aspects of a particular issue.

This is what is the outlook of the mass media of post-colonial countries such as India.

This tendency can be subtly perceived from the way the gang-rape and murder of two Dalit girls in Uttarpradesh were handled by the media.

All media have projected the episode of the rape and hanging of the girls from a tree in Katra village in Badaun district of that State, only through blogs and as a small bit of news.

The national TV channels focussed only on empty arguments about the episode. Media fighters such as Arnab Goswami have unfortunately turned a Nelson’s eye to the issue.

In Kerala, a women’s organization set up a group of six women who assembled in front of the High Court complex, covering themselves with just a piece of cloth and staged a protest. Most of the dailies and journals have not taken note of this incident.

Tamil media have not given as much importance to this as to the row over actor Sangeetha’s stand-off with a former PM adviser on the issue of dogs. They have been writing a lot about the ‘moral’ battle that the woman, former PM adviser, was having about her dogs.

An excessive media limelight was thrown on the actor, on the former bureaucrat and on the dogs.

Why have the media not raised their voices as much against the atrocities perpetrated on the Dalit girls as about the animal rights? Because the rights of the dogs are symbolic of the dominance of the upper class.

Russian writer Anton Chekhov’s story, ‘Chameleon’, strikes one’s mind.

A police officer tries to drive away a dog at the entrance of a market.

When someone standing nearby tells him that the animal is the Mayor’s, he, feeling panicky, sends the dog to the Mayor’s house, giving it all obeisance.

Today’s facts are just an extension of the fiction.

Here we have to put forward the criticism that the raped and murdered girls were just Dalits without any power and privilege and that was why the media coverage of the injustice meted out to them was not up to the mark.

When the 2012 Delhi episode of Nirpaya being gang-raped on a running bus caught the attention of the media, the nation was ablaze with moral indignation. Media, NGOs, women’s organisations, students and people from all walks of life took out rallies to condemn the incident. In Chennai, on the Marina, women’s organisations conducted a rally, holding aloft fire brands.

A film ‘Nirpaya’ was made on the real incident. The government brought out the Nirpaya fund scheme for the welfare of women. P. Chidambaram, then Finance Minister, introduced the Nirpaya Helpline service at a cost of Rs. 100 crores and also the SOS technology for sending alert messages about women’s issues. He had asked the mobile phone manufacturers to produce phones with the facility of an SOS button.

Now we analyse the reasons why one episode of rape and murder set the nation burning with anger and why another went virtually unnoticed.

Nirpaya was a girl of elite section studying in a medical college in Delhi. Her rape raised issues of safety and security for the women of upper and middle classes. As the safety of these sections of the society is always synonymous with that of the whole nation, this episode in question turned an issue of India’s security.

Students, who were steeped in democratic ideas of fundamental rights about going out with friends to public places without danger, felt outraged when their rights were trampled upon. Media, for their part, were gripped by panic when the freedoms of speech and movements in public that they espoused scrupulously were broken to smithereens. The government was in the thick of a moral anger when the ideal of a ‘complete freedom’, which our Father of the Nation dreamt of and which, according to him, would be possible only when a woman could walk down the road alone in the dead of midnight, was put at stake in the Capital of the country itself.

It was the typical thought system of the upper class belonging to the Capital, which sparked all over the nation a dire need for the people, NGOs, students , feminists and media to rise in anger against the Delhi rape.

But what happened in UP was miserable and tragic. The atrocity happened when the Dalit girls having no toilets at home went out to open fields.

This sorry state of affairs is happening in all villages in Tamil Nadu. The stark fact cannot be understood by the people living in posh areas in cities.

In olden days, there was no paucity of open spaces grown with bushes and thorny shrubs conveniently for the purpose of answering the calls of nature. But the greedy real estate business, galloping as it was, trespassed on those open spaces and devoured them all to the point of making the daily ritual of defecation a most challenging job for villagers.

The miserable rural life is beset with diseases caused by the inevitable actions of suppressing the biological urge to disembowel, or stopping the process midway when someone happens to pass by. Constipation is part and parcel of the tragic rural life.

The society has euphemistically called the defecation ‘morning ablutions’ (in Tamil it is called ‘kaalai kadan’). But it is appropriate only for the middle and upper classes. For the downtrodden, it is only the nocturnal ablutions (‘iravuk kadan’).

For the women of the lower rung of the society, it is a twin challenge: answering the nature’s calls safely and facing sexual assault danger. Every night, the biological work of defecating is akin to a game. The rural story-tellers have given the metaphor of a game of tigers and lambs for the women’s nocturnal secret job, bringing out the injustice and obscurely satirical features of the issue. The game involves three tigers and 15 lambs and delineates how the lambs escape the marauding tigers.

In this context, my short story, ‘Naveena Kazhippidam’ (modern toilet) comes back to my mind, which describes the agony of a job-seeking youth out to find a convenient spot for urinating. The youth in the story is faced with a lot of happenings, suppressing all the while his urge to urinate. Finally, finding a place, he sticks his penis out and starts urinating, a sense of ire at the nation welling up inside him. He then directs his organ at a map of India found among the garbage.

Prime Minister Modi, who before said it was more important to build toilets than to build temples, can take steps now to ensure that every household has a toilet. The government which dishes out a lot of freebies can now provide the basic facility.

The sorry state of affairs prevailing in the issue of toilets can be attributed to the upper class psychology engraved with the idea that a toilet is ‘untouchable’ as Dalits who only can clean it.

This idea should not be taken as one made in passing. If expanded, this idea can be construed as a deeply enshrined upper class tendency to treat the lower-rung people cut out for doing such manual labour as cleaning of a toilet as powerless creatures of the bottom of the society and to think that one can heap injustices on those people and easily get away with it.

The criminals’ courage to hang the raped Dalit girls from the tree has stemmed from this multi-dimensional psychological thinking of the upper class.

Ours is a history which has refused to be an extension of Mahatma Gandhi’s practice of cleaning his own toilet.

However, this linear perspective about the UP incident, that the rape and murder happened because there was no toilet, has to be given a go-by. The tendency of commenting on the incident, throwing just a surface-level look at it, without criticizing the functioning of the social structure, without going into its roots and projecting just a linear outlook has to be exposed

Will the problem be solved once and for all if Sulab International executes its toilet scheme successfully in all villages?

Of course, I agree that toilets are important and should be built in all villages. But I oppose the stratagem of using the toilet as the only solution to all problems plaguing the Indian womanhood and thereby toning down the harshness of life that women are subjected to.

American feminist and writer Gloria steinem‘s argument that she put forward at the Jaipur literary festival last year is important in this regard.

Analysing the subtle features of rape, she said the number of women raped and murdered by horny men was higher than that of people killed in the American war against terrorism. She dwelt at length on how sexual assault on American women was carried out in terms of race, exile, migration and power.

The existence of insecure and unsafe women who cross over to the U.S. from the Latin America ends in rape and murder. In the U.S. which is supposed to be at the peak of freedom for women and freedom for all and which has a surfeit of modern toilets, black women, migrant women and hapless and helpless women tortured and tormented by men in power are undergoing an ordeal at the hands of male chauvinistic pigs having upper class mindset, she said.

American woman’s mindset is dead against the dominant attitude of males in power and hence they are subjected to lots of harassment and intimidation. Here Holywood film ‘Wag the Dog’’ is worth recall, in which renowned actors Dustin Hoffman and Robert de Nero have acted.

The film revolved around the controversy which raged during the presidentship of Bill Clinton in the U.S. about his alleged sexual harassment of his secretary Monica Lewinsky and which triggered never-ending arguments inching towards circumstances that might cost Bill Clinton his post. The film was released after the end of Clinton’s tenure.

A scene in that film has an overdose of subtle political overtones. At a time when the controversy about Monica was rocking the nation like a tornado, the President is shown as instructing all TV channels to broadcast non-stop an environment of war clouds hanging over the nation, boosted by graphics, and tell the nation that there is a war threat from Albania which is gearing up its weapons and all other paraphernalia.

The U.S. President is shown as diplomatically moving coins in the game of transition from subtle politics to mass politics.

Therefore, I oppose tooth and nail the diversionary tactics of projecting toilet as the only solution. It all looks like a game of tigers and lambs being played in villages, in which people of dominant castes and Dallits are clashing along the lines drawn in the social structure. The blood gushing out of the goats being butchered is sprinkling on the India map like urine.

This game is being played along the labyrnth lines representing various outlooks.

To quote Flemish novelist Jos Vandeloo, “the players of subtle politics who are moving the coins in the endless game are just standing outside the playground’’.

- Gouthama Siddarthan is a noted columnist, short-story writer and a micro-political critic in Tamil, who is a reputed name in the Tamil neo-literary circle. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Translated by Maharathi.

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