The spot where the 19-year-old woman, who was allegedly gang-raped by four men, was cremated on the outskirts of Bool Garhi village in Hathras. (Image: Prakash SINGH / AFP)
Kuan Thakur ka
Paani Thakur ka
Khet-khalihan Thakur Ke
Gali-Muhalle Thakur Ke
Phir Apna Kya?
The well is the Thakur’s
Water the Thakur’s
The fields are the Thakur’s
The streets are the Thakur’s
Then what is ours?
The writer Omprakash Valmiki, in his famous poem Thakur ka Kuan, had asked with brutal frankness, what, if anything, belonged to them. In which hierarchy did they belong, if at all in any?
Not in the geographical and spatial hierarchy of village, city or nation did they seem to have a place. Nor, of course, in the social hierarchy, where they were beyond the pale of even the four-tiered chatur-varna.
Nothing belonged to them.
Everything belonged to the Thakur, those from the so-called upper-castes and upper classes.
Even the women. For the Thakurs to do as they pleased.
One is somehow reminded of the rape in Bhagana in Haryana of 3 Dalit women few years ago, who were also dragged from the fields, drugged and raped. “Shareer par achanak vazan laga…we suddenly felt weight bearing down on us…” they had tried to explain what happened to them, the vazan (weight) of the upper caste men forcing themselves on them.
The vazan of centuries of oppression and exploitation, breaking spine and bones, as in Hathras.
“My mother is an untouchable, while my father is a high caste…Mother lives in a hut, father in a mansion. Father is a landlord, mother landless….” So Sharankumar Limbale describes his own truth in Akkarmashi.
“A poor Dalit girl on attaining puberty has invariably been the victim of their [landlords’] lust,” he adds at another place in his book.
This absolute power exerts itself again and again to violate the bodies of Dalit women. And their testimonies are often disregarded, as we see happening once again in Hathras.
It steamrolls over the humanity of the women who are wronged in the most heinous way, further trying to deny them their dignity. In Hathras too, all manner of counter-allegations and narratives are surfacing, designed to cut at the root of the incident of barbarity.
The pretense that the untouchable body cannot have been violated because it would be defiling. As was told to Bhanwari Devi in Rajasthan. But we know only too well that is never the case. As Limbale makes it amply clear. As U.R. Anathamurthy’s novel Samskara revealed. The untouchable woman’s body is eminently touchable. Enjoy-able. Transgress-able. All notions of upper-caste ritual-purity etc vanish when it comes to the heinous violation of Dalit women.
*Umang Kumar is a writer based in Delhi-NCR.
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