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Some want to call Hathras an ‘honour killing case’ — they forgot it’s an upper-caste practice

When was the last time you heard of Dalits killing their daughters for eloping with upper-caste men? ‘Honour killing’ is not really a Dalit trend.

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It was a ‘gang rape’ until some people realised that the case involves atrocities on Dalits. They were demanding capital punishment for the accused until Thakur caste pride came into the picture. And then the story changed into that of an ‘affair gone wrong’. That is what being poor, rural, Dalit and a woman means in Uttar Pradesh’s ‘Thakurvad’ times.

Questioning upper-caste hegemony in Hathras has activated the whole upper-caste nexus. A few days ago, BJP MP Rajvir Singh Diler even visited the jail where the four accused are lodged. Diler said he was there because the jailor had ‘invited him for tea’.

Everyone from Thakur villagers to local MLAs and MPs have been coming up with different theories to explain the gruesome Hathras case.

Then, the UP administration got involved too. Someone leaked phone call records to suggest that the Dalit woman’s brother and the accused knew each other. Soon after, the main accused wrote a letter to the Hathras Superintendent of Police (SP), describing how he was ‘friends’ with the Dalit woman, and that her family didn’t like it. The family has been under the constant vigil of UP police. And some say, pressured by them too.

Many are telling national television channels that this is a case of what is popularly, though wrongly, called an ‘honour killing’. Dalits have killed their daughter for being in love with an upper-caste man.

It’s no more about justice. It is now a ‘how dare you question our upper-caste men’ story.

Also read: Rhea Chakraborty, Hathras, Delhi riots and Covid — all these have something in common

‘Honour killing’ — an upper-caste concept

When was the last time you heard of Dalits killing their daughters for eloping with upper-caste men? One month ago? One year ago? ‘Honour killing’ is not a really Dalit trend.

It is a concept based on purity and pollution. The upper castes consider themselves ‘pure’ and the lower castes as ‘pollutants’. And the repository of all of society’s ‘purity’ and supposed ‘honour’? Women. Upper castes do not want their lineage to be ‘contaminated’ by lower castes.

Every news article on ‘honour killing’ tells us the same story — the upper-caste family kills/hounds/tortures their daughter in the name of ‘honour’ if the lover is a Dalit.

It is the greatest sin that a Dalit man can ever commit — falling in love with a woman from the upper caste.

And no, this is not only limited to Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Rajasthan. These kinds of murders happen all over India. A Dalit husband and his upper-caste wife have changed 25 homes in five years in order to not be hunted down by the woman’s family.

The hatred for a Dalit is so deep that the upper castes chase/hound the couples for decades. They never forget. And though murder might be an extreme form, just tell any upper-caste man that his daughter wants to marry a Dalit man. Most of their ‘caste warrior’ selves, which may have been in hiding, will pounce out.

As for men who rape Dalit women? Rape is not about sex, it is about establishing power hierarchies — of showing people their ‘place’ and subjugating their bodies.

Upper castes and Thakurs in particular have been proclaiming the innocence of the four men arrested for the alleged gang-rape and murder of a Dalit woman in Hathras, Uttar Pradesh | Photo: Manisha Mondal | ThePrint
Upper castes and Thakurs, in particular, have been proclaiming the innocence of the four men arrested for the alleged gang-rape and murder of a Dalit woman in Hathras, Uttar Pradesh | Photo: Manisha Mondal | ThePrint

What if there was an affair?

Back in Hathras, the police and BJP politicians are floating the theory that the accused had a relationship with the victim so this can’t be a ‘rape’. They conveniently forget that according to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), almost 95 per cent of rapes are committed by offenders who are known to the victim. Being in an affair doesn’t absolve the accused of the heinous crime, and the Hathras victim has even gone on record to talk of ‘zabardasti’.

But if you go by what most are saying, the Dalit family tried to kill its daughter, then took her to the police station in that condition and then to hospitals. Then caste-riots were engineered to defame the government.

An ‘international plot’.

The UP Police's hurried burning of the body of the Hathras woman who was allegedly gangraped has sparked anger | Photo: Manisha Mondal | ThePrint
The UP Police’s hurried burning of the body of the Hathras woman who was allegedly gangraped has sparked anger | Photo: Manisha Mondal | ThePrint

Also read: Who are Thakurs of UP and why are they powerful? Answers are key to understanding Hathras

‘Big twist’

The Yogi Adityanath government has already committed many blunders in this case. The way the administration brazenly burnt the body of the woman in the middle of the night, without listening to the pleas of the family, shook the nation. After that, the administration turned the village into a fortress and allegedly threatened the family.

One can safely assume that this treatment is being given to the Dalit family because of its caste. Even the family said that ‘being a Pandit or Thakur’ would have likely saved the woman.

Not just UP Police and government, look at the coverage of the Hathras story in certain news channels too. Calls for justice became stories about ‘honour killing’, ‘big twist’ and ‘Operation Hathras’ in no time.

Also read: Don’t know how to take a U-turn? Learn from TV channels on Rhea Chakraborty and Hathras cases

Ambedkar and the dream of a Dalit

The BJP government, like all other governments, chants the name of Ambedkar. But they have forgotten that Ambedkar advocated inter-caste marriages. Savarnas hounded Ambedkar for the Hindu Code Bill.

There are many upper caste people who have shunned casteism. It is the result of the 70 years of struggle against casteism. But in recent times, a section of the upper castes seems to be trying to reverse the gains. Just look at the vilification of the Bhima Koregaon Dalit movement.

Dalit politics seems to be at a loss after the silence of Mayawati and the death of Ram Vilas Paswan. There is no one to take the mantle. Bhim Army leader Chandrashekar Azad has been trying to create a space for himself, but whenever he tries, he is thrown into jail. Dalit society needs a new Kanshiram in order to continue their struggle for equality.

Ambedkar called for the annihilation of caste, but in today’s politics, it has been turned by the upper caste into seeing the society as casteless and being caste-blind.

Equality is not a rationing scheme, it comes from the hearts and minds. The onus in the Hathras case is on the Adityanath government, it can make it or break it. The ‘Kevat-Kevat, Shabri-Shabri’ chant during election campaigns won’t help all the time.

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  1. Honour killing is prevalent among all mainland communities either it is brahmin, dalit, rajput, baniya even in adivasis. This stupid author is seeing every thing through caste angle. Even Muslims kill their daughter in honor killings

  2. Honour killing is not an upper caste practice. Never heard of Yadav, Gujjar etc killing their daughters for dating outside their caste ? Never heard of muslim families killing their daughters for falling in love with either a non muslim or a muslim from lower communities? The article is a one sided propaganda against Hindus in general and upper caste in particular.

  3. Honour killing in UP: 16-year-old pregnant Dalit girl strangled, mutilated by father & brother in Shahjahanpur, 07 Oct 20 !!!!

  4. Stop seeing everything from the prism of caste. Can you I mean seriously can you write a single paragraph without using this rhetoric? Crime is a crime is a crime.

  5. Just yesterday an 18-year old Hindu youth was lynched by the family members of his Muslim girlfriend. The Print, being a “secular” media outlet, did not even mention the communal angle to the whole incident. Neither did they mention the names of the accused who were arrested by the police for the murder. No one reading that news article on The Print would even have a whiff of suspicion that the case is actually one of communal hatred resulting in lynching.
    A question to the self-righteous pontificating young journalists of The Print –
    Is this how you do journalism? When an upper caste Hindu is the alleged criminal, you publish his name, his religious identity, his caste and everything else that one could possibly publish.
    When the alleged criminal is from certain specific religious communities, you hide their names and their religious identity? You are clearly uncomfortable while covering the latter incidents of crime and would rather not print anything at all. It seems you would be glad to sweep everything under the carpet and to not even acknowledge that a crime has been committed.
    What gives you the right to pontificate? Of acting as holier than thou? Of taking the moral high ground?
    Would Ms. Jyoti Yadav write a scathing piece on such horrific crimes/lynching as well? Obviously no.
    But of it was the other way round, that is, if a Muslim man had been lynched because of being in a relationship with a Hindu woman, she would certainly be back to her castigations, excoriations and pontifications.

  6. No doubt this petty Ahir is talking about caste, Her Akhilesh Yadav every day used to talk about his own Ahir interests shamelessly. Have shame

  7. No doubt this petty Ahir is talking about caste, Her Akhilesh Yadav every day used to talk about his own Ahir interests shamelessly.

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