Loud silences really don’t convey much except a sense of defeat. This is more than apt in case of the historical Khairlanji verdict meted out in a sleepy town in western India, not too far away from the bustling metropolis known as Bombay, a place I call home.
In a country that’s replete with as many sexual assault cases as the number of babies born per minute, heinous crimes are everywhere, but one particular heinous crime has recently stood out from the rest.
Giving its verdict in the 2006 Khairlanji case, the Sessions court has held eight people guilty of murder. It has, however, acquitted three.
The Indian legal system usually makes for a perfectly submissive flogging partner, given the amount of beating it enjoys from barbaric scoundrels who repeatedly flaunt their entitled dicks in its face.
This time though, it’s done fairly well for itself. Yet, some problems remain obvious.
Let’s provide some background on why the court ruling still involves a heavy dose of B.S.:
In a rural Maharashtra hamlet, Bhandara, there exists a village called Khairlanji, a place where a Dalit (lower caste by standard caste-based definitions prevalent in India) family was butchered and had their home ransacked because of some really mundane reasons. For the uninitiated, just like race divides much of the U.S., caste and religion are the twin swords of Damocles hanging over the Indian socio-political geography.
The members of this family were brutalized and the mutilated bodies later dumped in a nearby canal, according to the news reports. They were part of the Bhootmange clan, their family comprised of a husband, wife, and their four kids. The women of the house were brutally raped. A mob then paraded them naked while beating them with sticks, bicycle chains, and whatever they could lay their hands on.
Later, when all the violence didn’t suffice, they repeatedly banged their heads on a hard wall so to render them lifeless. The pattern was repeated with the male children too. The only survivor of this gut wrenching tragedy was the father, Bhaiyalal Bhotmange, who managed a miraculous escape.
In the aftermath of this cataclysmic event, the nation was shocked, then tut-tutted some and finally went back to its decaf, lattes, soap operas, malls, and reality TV shows. Till the day of the final verdict arrived, that is.
Eight proven guilty. Three let off scot free. Six of the accused will hang for what they did. Not an entirely rotten deal if you consider that caste-based politics strong-arm the Indian law machinery frequently and with unparalleled ease. Also, there is the fact that Mr. Bhotmange carried on with this crusade for justice despite cash and kind offers to settle this matter “amicably” outside the domain of the legal system. Not to mention some serious barter options laid out by political bigwigs.
The worst part of the entire episode, though, is that the rape charges against the men who indulged in this massacre did not uphold in a court of law due to “lack of evidence”. It almost plays out like a mediocre Bollywood movie.
Apparently, the horror inflicted on the Bhotmange women was merely considered “molestation”. That’s legal joo joo for a little hanky-panky here and there, as a lawyer friend points out. It’s not a synonym for serious sexual assault. Forget about the violation. It’s not a violation, not in the eyes of law, at least. Yes, just molestation. How is that for a particularly blood-curdling joke?
The mother-daughter pair was pinned down to the mud floor and chili powder was thrown into their eyes to disorient them while they were raped. Correct me if I am wrong but it’s not always about the quicksand justice meted out to such diabolical bastards (though a speedy judgment does help deliver some peace of mind, if that’s entirely an option), it’s also about real charges that should have been proven in a court of law.
Rape is the one of the most toxic crimes invented by humanity and somehow people (read: men) cannot fathom this.
Oftentimes, incidents such as these escape the larger global radar. And despite the verdict, we must remember that there exists a half of humanity that is still struggling with the most primal form of patriarchy there is.
Neither should the caste angle to this unfortunate situation be ignored. Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, a constitutional provision to safeguard the so called “lower caste” folks in India, was thrown out of court, after all.
So I can’t help but link this entire fiasco to the Dalit discontent that’s been bubbling in various parts of the Indian state. India claims to be constantly riled by what it so lovingly labels ”Naxalite nuisance”, a constant slew of lower caste insurgent activities, yet it takes events like these to scratch the surface and give us perspective on where does all this hatred emerge from in the first place.
As of now, for what it’s worth, at least someone will hang for crimes committed against humanity in general.