The Other Priyanka

(warning: this post contains pictures that may offend the ‘dignity’, ‘decency’, and sensibility of some readers). Not Priyanka Vadera Gandhi, Not even Priyanka Chopra. But, [tag]Priyanka Bhotmange[/tag]. Just a simple, ordinary girl called Priyanka who lived in a small little village called [tag]Khairlanji[/tag] in the back of beyond in the state of [tag]Maharashtra[/tag]. She studied in the 12th and hoped to make something of her life that would allow her to escape from the restrictions of caste, class and gender.

images

Two months ago – on Sepetmber 29th – she was murdered. Now, she wasn’t just murdered – she was gang raped by a drunken mob before that. As Shivam’s harrowing post describes

four victims …..dragged away to the village chaupal, Priyanka strapped to a bullock cart. By now, men allegedly from the entire village of about 150 Powar and Kalar families had collected. Some shouted to the sarpanch to allow them to sexually assault the women.

Surekha and Priyanka were stripped, paraded naked, beaten black and blue with bicycle chains, axes and bullock cart pokers. They were publicly gang raped until they died. Some raped them even after that, and finally, sticks and rods were shoved into their genitals.

In the meanwhile

Meanwhile, Priyanka’s brothers, 21-year-old Sudhir and 19-year-old Roshan, were murdered. After Priyanka and her mother were raped, they too were murdered.

This from Shivam

They raped the women and killed all four, even as their womenfolk looked on, mute spectators to a form of justice reserved for castes lower than theirs. One woman, Sudha Dhenge, reportedly did protest but was slapped into silence. She now says she was never there.

And finally

The first photographs of Priyanka’s body, that were taken by a social organisation, showed rods sticking out from her genitals. But when her body was taken to the Mohadi hospital for the post-mortem, the sticks and rods had disappeared.

Priyanka’s crime – her family was Dalit and worse than that – it was a family that dared to stand up for its rights. Yet at a certain level Priyanka and her mother Surekha were also punished for being women. And how dare a woman, and a DAlit woman at that have delusions of equality? Don’t we all know that historically and culturally while being a Dalit is bad enough, being a woman is worse. And God help you if you are both.

 

Last week – my students and I were carrying out an little exercise that we conduct fairly regularly. We look at the top of mind recall stories from all the media. The students identified around 17 stories. 12 of those were entertainment or celeb oriented- Ash, Abhishek, Cricket, Rahul Mahajan. 2 of them were business – tata corus. Two of them were national/international political. And one student said Solapur. I asked what solapur and she said that some Dalits are protesting. About what, i asked. Something, she said. And my students are bright, aware and at an age where they do care about the world and get outraged about injustices. Yet they had not read anything beyond Dalits protesting.

 

And then i did something i have never done in class. I turned brutal. I just read out part of Shivam’s piece from memory – the bit where the villagers were petitioning the sarpanch to be allowed to rape the women. And the manner of the murders. There was a shocked, stunned silence. This is the first time that i have really used graphic descriptions in a class. I used to resist graphic descriptions – and given the fact that i teach media and how media impacts society – i used to be careful about explaining stuff like decency and dignity and all those wonderful terms. But, somehow this time around i realised that trying to pussyfoot around the topic is not going to help. That my students, future journalists and media people have to know what is going on and how. and so does everyone else. Family of four killed in Nagpur or Solapur does not really describe the story or its implications. And it is with this in mind i have decided to link to the pictures of the victim.

 

A girl called Priyanka is dead. She was murdered by men who demanded the right to rape her and then kill her. The permission was granted. And we want to be polite about it? A woman called Surekha is dead. She is also gang raped and murdered. Two young men called Sudhir & Roshan and beaten to death. And we use flowery terms like ‘dignity in death’. What dignity? The dead are dead, and what we are trying to do is protect the dignity of the living. Our dignity. We don’t want to see a raped and murdered woman’s photograph because it offends us. Not the act but the picture. I have been following the Indian blogospheres’ reactions on the incident. And, almost like in a black farce, beyond a lipservice to outrage at the act – it has focused mainly on whether a blogger should have published the picture or not. As someone pointed out on beaupeep’s blog

Common man wants to learn and wants to learn the essence. He can very well picturise : a dead body or what a rape or mutilation can leave behind on a human body. Are you achieving any purpose beyond disturbing his mind one bright morning.

As I said – dignitiy and decency and all the polical correctness is for us. not the dead. i hate to use the analogy of Fox News – but the fact remains that those who have been screaming about the ‘dignity of death’ (pray tell me what is dignified about being gangraped, having rods and objects shoved into you, and necrophilia) have really taken a leaf out of the best propagandists in the world. When the issue is important scream out a different question. A few months ago when Priyadarshini Mattoo’s family was finally given justice – i asked my students a question – if the woman was poor, dalit and from the back of beyond, would there have been so much outrage and outcry. I guess i have got my answer.

 

Other reads Shivam Vij The Great Bong Atrocity News images courtsey: The life, thoughts and teachings of Beau Peep

16 Comments

  1. Author

    It’s a disgrace that people sit and cheer the proceedings! Have we all lost our testicular fortitudes by not taking any action against those accused. It’s a disgrace to modern India and humanity

  2. Author

    It requires guts for a lady to write this. And I amglad that one amongst the Indian multitude has done this.
    What is revolting is not the pictures as much as the act of the ‘higher class’ who perpetuated this heinous act. May they and their brood rot in the vilest Hell.
    All these portend just one fact. The time is not far off hen the dalits will rise up in arms and destroy those who hav been trying to destroy them. I hope I am alive to see that.
    I am not a dalit; I am a human being, and I cry at what is happening. Is there no end to their suffering?

    1. Author

      That time has come sooner than anyone would have thought. Join in the resistance.

  3. Author

    Thank you Harini for two things –

    a) having the courage to call a spade a spade. We need more people like you, and

    b) for the links. 🙂

  4. Author

    Harini, quite co-incidently I was reading Harsh Mander’s “Unheard Voices” (Penguin)… You should ask your students to read it.

    Things have not changed a bit in all these years. Mumbai and Delhi and the cities belong to completely different worlds… I remember the time I was doing research for a docu in Gujarat in early 1990s and meeting a priest who was advocating armed struggle (reminded me of Romero then)… It is 15 years since and things are the same.

  5. Author

    will do kailash. am also currently reading vrinda nabar’s ‘caste as woman’- i wonder how much of the punishment that they endured was because a woman had dared to oppose land grabbing, and how much of it was because they were dalit.

    the other day someone whom i always considered a ‘liberal’ male told me – dalits get raped and killed everyday. what’s the big deal. and it wasn’t a cynical comment – it was more of what the f*** is this fuss about.
    it’s also the sheer apathy of the urbanised middle class. the reservation debate has polarised the issue so much that a lot of people don’t really care if another citizen of the country is deprived of her or his most fundamental rights.
    Also the urbanised middle class doesn’t mind so much if the dalits remained malis or sweepers – but their asserting their property rights and aspirations towards education and ‘service’ gets people simmering.
    nothing will change unless the atrocity against dalits act gets teeth. start putting people in prison for committing atrocities and the rest will start falling in line. So long as the ‘system’ tacitally or otherwise encourages caste fault lines – this situation will not change.

  6. Author

    j – the state has shown a complete lack of balls in not sorting out this issue. murder, rape, atrocities -you would think that a village that stood by cheering is atleast charged with being accessories to the crime.

  7. Author

    siargi
    justice would be a good idea.
    chemically castrating all the rapists – once they are tried and found guilty – would probably be a good way of ensuring that crimes like this do not happen.
    in a country that values ‘mardangi’ or masculinity so much – and where rape occurs to ‘teach women a lesson’ -chemical castration will be truly justice

  8. Author

    Gargi,
    I think Shivam’s graphic descriptions really brought the issue to national consciousness for a lot of us. harrowing. I kept looking at my baby daughter and would simply think of the girl that had everything taken away from her, just on the verge of bigger things; and how.

  9. Author

    completely corporate serf.
    we discussed this issue in class – and for most of the girls (sophia is a girl’s college) it was very personal. The girl was someone who could have done something with her life. and in all this dalit/obc/govt/naxal cacophony – the loss of 4 human lives that worked hard and tried to make a better tomorrow has been forgotten.
    my father reacted much as you – personally.
    i hope that there is justice for her and people like her. not because they are caste or community x. but, because they are citizens whose rights have been violated and desecrated.

  10. Author

    Harini,
    This is absolutely gut wrenching! I am lost for words…..

  11. Author

    this is a heinous crime.All india should remember a two min silence every year to keep this story alive

  12. Author

    This horrible incident has not led to the arrest of the Sarpanch which is a big shame. How about some of the villagers be offered those lakhs of rupees to go and break and cripple the men and women who participated in this horrific crime? They need to remember every day of their crippled life what those 4 innocent people felt when they went through the hell…….Some one stand up and show the criminals the real colors of their crime in their own homes!!The corrupt judicial system will never punish the real criminals – so let some brave people do it themselves!!

  13. Author

    Can someone post the address to reach the Sarpanch of this village where this crime has happened and the address of Bhaiyaram Bhotmange? If someone wants to take action on his horrendous crime against humanity, you need to publish where these people can be found….

  14. Author

    I am reading about this case after 5 years yet nothing seemed to change in India. How cruel, dumb and dead we are !

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