Two days before the sad demise of popular TV actress Pratyusha Banerjee, a 17-year-old, prize-winning artist Delta Meghwal’s corpse was recovered from the water tank of her hostel in Bikaner, Rajasthan. While the mainstream media has been covering Pratyusha’s death in full swings, this poor girl and her pain was smoothly turned blind eyes to. Delta was raped on campus by one of the faculty members and then compelled to give it in writing that it was a consensual act. Outrageous, yet went unnoticed. Is it because of the indifference to the agony of the oppressed or was this news ‘item’ not good enough for the channel’s TRP?
Delta was a Dalit girl hailing from a poor family in Barmer district of Rajasthan. A gifted painter as she was and striving to excel in academics, Ms. Delta was on her way to make into the society bold and fearless. This idea of her emerging fearless or emerging at all, did not sound good to her teacher.
(Her award winning art-work)
According to the reports, she had called her father a night before she was found dead. She was in a bad state and told him that their warden Priya had asked her to go to PT Instructor Vijendra’s room for some ‘cleaning’. When she reached, Vijendra raped her. The matter escalated and was obvious to reach the management. Hoping for justice, Delta was once again let down by her faculty. Shameless or Indifferent, whatsoever it may be, the management tried to cover up the incident to prevent the image of their institute from being maligned. Delta was forced to render a written apology along with a statement that this happened with mutual consent.
Next day, she was found dead. Since her body was found, the college has been trying to portray it as suicide whereas many student organisations across the country and members of some civil society groups claim that she was murdered. The attitude of the management was outrageous and one would have hoped for the police to remedy it.
To the contrary, our fierce policemen added to the indignity rendered to the deceased. They took her body in a municipal tractor that is used to carry garbage around the city. Icing, there was no videographing the crime scene or procedure. Sheer negligence and, may we point out, apathetic and insulting approach towards the talented young girl who should not have faced all this.
An obvious questions that media failed to grasp, let alone ask, is why was she asked to clean a teacher’s room? Isn’t that the job of a sweeper? Or, was she considered one of them? Was it a ploy for rest of the events to unfold? Why was a case against Vijendra not filed immediately since the girl is legally a minor? Why did the college make her state that the abuse was a consensual act?
Sure as hell, no comparisons can be made between the two deaths. Except on one grounds. Why did one get all the attention in the world and the other case left to rot? Shouldn’t the mainstream media (print and TV) give a little more attention to crimes like these where the voices of people from weaker sections of the society are stifled? Why don’t we see a debate around safety of Dalit girls, as clearly they are considered as an easy catch? Why did the police not follow standard procedures or show some dignity?
Although the rape has been confirmed in medical reports and Vijendra has been arrested, the head of the institute and the hostel warden still roam freely. Both of these have committed derogatory acts and should in no case be let gone.
The voices of the oppressed as buried as if they never were heard. This is just one case. Many such cases have gone unnoticed, thanks to the society we live in. Many cases happen every day in small villages and towns, the news of which dies faster than the victim. Rohith’s death opened up the gates to acknowledging and questioning caste dynamics in the country. Delta’s death should make that debate even bigger.
If a report by national daily, ‘The Times of India’ is to be believed, crimes against Dalits have witnessed a 245% increase in the last decade!! If this is not an evidence of the biggest failures of our democracy, I don’t know what is. Despite 67 years of freedom from the yoke of imperialism, our own social vices of stigmatising the people from so-called lower castes have caged us.