Dalit Lives Matter

Image Source: The Quint

Our worst fears are becoming real thick and fast.  Our country appears to  be fast becoming a banana republic.  We have several indicators of weakening of our judiciary, high handedness of the police, crimes against women and Dalit community, denial of crucial data, rising prices, job losses, sinking economy, our standoff with China etc., forcefully manifest that we are on a fast track of losing our democracy and becoming a banana republic. We can see that our politics is marked with the stains of authoritarianism and intolerance of dissent.  The ghastly events of the gang rape of a 19 years old Dalit girl in Hathras in UP show how we have become morally corrupt, intoxicated on the caste locations, heartlessly insensitive about our needs for closure of the death of our near an dear ones, cruel to treat the victims family as guilty of the crime and manifest how we use the law and the police force to cover up what are dastardly acts of crimes from the activists, media and the political opposition. What is appalling and horrendous is the hurried disposal of the body of the young victim in the dead of the night without the consent of the family. Clearly these tragic acts  smack of destruction of evidence on the part of the police.  These atrocious events reveal that we have lost our moral compass and are actively destroying the constitutional rights of the weakest and vulnerable.  The events of Hathras did not just symbolically repeatedly rape the victim and its family, it also raped our constitution. 

If the horrific theatre of cruelty and caste staged in Hathras which is only a few hours from our capital Delhi does not shake our collective and individual conscience, it will clearly exhibit the level of depravity that we come to embrace. Casteism and its violence is the poison that has afflicted our country for centuries. Independent India did not annihilated caste in practice and do not seem to be anywhere close to give it up.  But the brazenness in which the crimes of the upper caste are sort to be defended using the might of the state machinery only shows that we have fallen into new levels of decadence. It has come to show that majoritarism and hindutva politics is on the side of Manuvadis and the  Dalits, the tribals, the women and the minorities lives do not matter. It loudly demonstrates that these lives of the weak and the powerless in our society are disposable to suit the upper castes. This is why we seem to have reached a point that says enough is enough and are morally challenged to come to a resolve that adopts resistance that says now or never to these heinous crimes. We cannot allow these state sponsored crimes to protect the criminals. When the state becomes a partner in the crime of the criminals and is working to obstruct justice to the victims, it is already an indication of us becoming a banana republic.  This is why it is urgent that we stand up to this miscarriage of justice.  We have to fight the deep state’s support to the upper castes in our country. Our loyalty to our country has to be measured by the loyalty to the weakest and the down trodden and not through some lofty cultural nationalism that is tainted with religion and smacks of narcissism. 

Although, Hathras is distant to us, we cannot allow the distance to blur our moral conscience and have the imperative to manifest our outrage against the collapse of law and order to the extent  that the victim is treated as a criminal.  If these monstrous events do not compel our concerns and lead us to voice our objections, it will only reveal the sad condition of the moral collapse that we are witnessing today. We do face an ethical imperative to express our resistance to the shameless protection of the criminals by the State. While we have this immediate challenge to respond to this ethical imperative, we also have a long term challenge to deal with the virus of casteism that is afflicting our society at all levels. Our fidelity to our caste is clearly shown in the way we draw our political boundaries and seek to advance the interest of our caste. For a long time, we did not seem to caste our vote but voted our caste during elections. We seem to be conditioned by the drive for self preservation and this is an important sign of our submission to egoism. Caste is an institutionalization of our egoism.  We do have the challenge to scrutinize our fidelity to caste on the basis of ethics of cohabitation which defines the boundaries of our belonging to each other. 

 The ethics of cohabitation challenges us to ask ourselves: ‘Do we have the right to chose with whom to cohabit the earth?’ This means we can choose where to live and how to live. But can be choose with whom to live? Can we decide which portion of humanity should live and which should die? Coming closer home, can we decide who should live in India and who should die? If we chose to decide on this matter may be that we will commit genocide.  Hence, we have to be aware that our drive for self preservation can degenerate into a genocidal mentality. Caste somehow loosely operates on this genocedal mentality and struggles with the unchosen character of the earthly cohabitation. The same is true of Hindutva nationalism.  Our freedom in an ethical sense does not allow us to practice genocide. Grievous crimes like the one we can see unfolding in Hatras are demonstrating how our society is living on the edge of the practice of genocide. We have to come to terms with the unchosen character of cohabitation and embrace this ethics that transcends the egoism of self preservation.  What we are is our relation to the other.  The manner in which I treat the other makes me what I am. Therefore, we become good Indians through our good conduct and not through laud confessions, creeds and rituals that publicly and deceptively offer lip service and fail in practice. Ethics of cohabitations teaches us that all lives matter and we are responsible for the life of the other. If no human life is disposable, then Dalit lives too matter and we have the obligation to stand for justice when these sacred lives are violated. 


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Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue.

- Fr Victor Ferrao