FILE Photograph:( Reuters )
Today, Hathras is debating the incident from the perspective of caste relations. Political parties too have sensed an opportunity.
It is truly unfortunate that crime against women in India has never been treated independently. It is never reported and outlined from merely gender perspective, and immediately acquires faultline of caste, community, religion, and character.
The violence perpetrated on the body quickly becomes expression of inter-faith or inter-caste politics which is nothing but primordial politics of honour in the Indian sub-continent.
According to the current narrative, the primal issue of assault on a woman's body has become secondary and honour of community, state, caste, and religion has become primary. It is for this reason that India has also failed to make women reservation bill a reality. Gender is never considered an independent category of approach towards a woman's body.
Gender continues to be a very weak tool of political mobilisation in India.
In Hathras case, the victim's own dying testimony is not being considered important. She was cremated in the absence of her relatives. The argument of the state was that they wanted to avoid violence and it is for this reason that the family members could not participate in the last rite ceremonies. When alive, the victim's body was brutalised by men and when dead, by an indifferent state.
Today, Hathras is debating the incident from the perspective of caste relations. Political parties too have sensed an opportunity. The local administration's response reflection of how crime in poor localities is treated. It is never prioritised. Administrative response is always a reflection of the power matrix of the ruling government.
In Hathras case too, many theories are being debated. One of the theories is that the crime was invited. The brutal assault on woman converts into a case of immodesty and loose character.
Many Indian filmmakers too have undergone harassment because certain communities and religious organisations objected to a few scenes. The classic example is that of the film Padmavat where an imaginary female character became repository of the community's honour.
Uttar Pradesh too has made Hathras case an issue of honour. It has become irrelevant as to how the woman died. It has become irrelevant as how her back was broken. It has also become irrelevant as to why a prompt action was lacking on part of the police department -- all this because the state has converted it into an issue of conspiracy.
It has become a matter of state honour as post murder journalistic and political activity is being portrayed as an exercise in maligning the state. Instead of Hathras being treated as a pure case of rape and murder, it has become a case of conspiracy, subversion, and foreign funding. It has become a case of maligning an elected government. The political fight has relegated violence on the victim's body as a secondary narrative. Her body has become less of an issue and caste relations, relationship between journalists and the state and a conspiracy to malign has become a bigger issue. The apparent attempt of the UP government to milk the case for domestic end is evident.
Hathras rape like all other rapes was an expression of power. Whether it happened because of caste animosity or class domination or was a result of pure misogyny is not known but the shoddy job of the local police is for everyone to see.
After Nirbhaya, promises were made that an incident like that will never be allowed to take place in India again. It was not the case to be. Thousands of rapes have since taken place -- some were documented and some not.
There are thousands of others which get hushed up.
Today state instead of correcting the wrong is trying to avert a crisis of perception management. It is for this reason that the affidavit filed in court is less about the victim's body and more about the honour and prestige of the state.
The debate on the rape also shows how individual rights become secondary when it comes to community sentiments. Hathras rape and murder is a warning that if we continue to pander to community feelings or ego of a weak state then it will end up curtailing individual liberty.