You cannot erase this sin

Updated: 02 October, 2020 07:34 IST | Rosalyn D'mello | Mumbai

Unless we see how caste privilege operates, demand better accountability, there will be no atoning for the evils of Brahmanical patriarchy.

Activists of Socialist Unity Centre of India (SUCI) protest over the Hathras gang rape in Kolkata. PIC/PTI
Activists of Socialist Unity Centre of India (SUCI) protest over the Hathras gang rape in Kolkata. PIC/PTI

picSome sins can never be undone. They resist the futility of cleansing rituals. Not even the toxic waters of the Ganga can enable their evaporation. They stick to the body of the sinner, infecting the soul, like maggots consuming it from within, until the non-material sinful flesh begins to fester and turn fowl, and the stench accumulates, assuming the virality of a disease.

Complicity extends beyond the boundaries of the active perpetrator(s), because the act of violence was a symptom of internalised impunity by those who inherited the doctrine of cruelty by virtue of their upper-caste births; and those who validate this naturalised impunity by excusing it, by saying nothing.

If, like them, you don't 'see caste' because it's inconvenient for you to 'see' how so many are dehumanised by the institution. If, like them, you are unable to gleam the sacredness of all living beings and cannot endorse the right of all to be treated with dignity. If, like them, your being is defined by the nursing of hatred towards another. If, like them, you subscribe to the illogic being peddled, that to bring in a caste dimension to an issue that is in fact wholly symptomatic of deeply ingrained Brahmanical patriarchy is to 'reduce' the violence of what was done to her, then you participate in the sin. You become one of her gang-rapists.

It is not enough even to outrightly condemn the morbidity of the violence that was inflicted upon her, to mourn how her mutilated body was unceremoniously 'erased' without the basic decency of being grieved over. Nothing can exonerate us from the knowledge that this was done, that this happened, and that justice can never be achieved. How can her family possibly be compensated for the abased cruelty of their loss? How can her community find peace after having endured such torture from a force meant to protect; a police force funded by tax-payers like them, like you and me?

When we weep we must weep because we know there is no moving on from this. We know there is no redemption to be found, not even in prayer, not even in confession. We must commit to collective atonement. This is the only way forward. We must smash Brahmanical patriarchy. We must, every day, articulate what it means to live as citizens of a Hindutva nation in which we are ruled by thugs, in which Dalit women are raped by thugs, then cremated by thugs in the alleged secrecy of night.

If, after what has now transpired, you continue to be an apologist for right-wing fundamentalism, you are one of them. If, after being presented with cold facts, you are still unable to perceive structural inequality, you are one of them. If, after being exposed to the horrendous specifics of her torture, which I will not repeat, you continue to uphold patriarchal values that excuse the violence historically and contemporaneously performed upon women's bodies, you are one of them. If you cannot find it in you to demand accountability, to fight for the love of justice, to ask for the resignation of the upper-caste people who offer immunity to upper-caste men, you are one of them.

It has sadly never been so simple to identify a Hindutva empathiser. If you continue to uphold the supremacy of caste, if you continue to practice caste, if you are against the empowerment of Dalits, womxn, and marginalised communities, and indigenous people, you are one of them.

Listen closely to your body's revulsion when you are subject to heinous details of the cruelty that was inflicted; the caste blood-lust that was enacted and reinforced by police machinery. Listen to your body's resistance to slip into comfortable explanations that might allow you to continue to live in a state of denial. Listen to Dalit activists and intellectuals who are vocalising their grief. Listen to what they have to say about our role in perpetuating the atrocities committed against them.
Do not gaslight them. Do not caste-splain away their very real pain and anger and frustration. Do not tell them to sit back and hope for a better future. Agitate. Find it in you to become an ally. Seek out initiatives that are invested in fighting this many-headed, monstrous beast that is Brahmanical patriarchy.

Learn to call it out when you see it in action. Learn to see it in action. Remove the upper-caste blinders that protect you at the cost of another's enslavement. See caste. Learn to recognise it.

Because once you do, you will bear witness to its omnipresence. You will have to acknowledge the molecular structure of the disease. Only then can we work towards an antidote that goes beyond our collective efforts to end its perpetuation. For now, we must forgive no one, not even ourselves. Not until we have begun the process of atonement by demanding accountability.

Deliberating on the life and times of Everywoman, Rosalyn D’Mello is a reputable art critic and the author of A Handbook For My Lover. She tweets @RosaParx
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The views expressed in this column are the individual’s and don’t represent those of the paper

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First Published: 02 October, 2020 06:42 IST

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