We have yet another horrific rape case in India. In this case, a 13-year-old girl who is part of low Dalit caste was abducted and gang raped by men from the higher Jats caste. They took pictures of the rape and threatened to release them if she told anyone. Eventually her mother discovered the truth and told her father, a gardener. The father’s shame under the cultural and religious norms of the area was so great that he drank pesticide and killed himself. In response to the outrage, local leader, Jitender Chhatar blamed fast foods for the rape while the state’s former chief minister, Om Prakash Chautala, called for the lowering of the age of consent to marriage to 15 to combat rapes in the country.
Chautala appears to believe that the solution to rape is to allow even younger girls to marry, which often occurs without their true consent.
The family of the victim cannot even buy milk during Hindu holidays because the higher caste members consider them to be impure to touch or eat around. They are often victims with little recourse in the legal system. It is part of India’s appalling caste system, which we have discussed before. It appears however that the Dalit are not untouchable when it comes to rape.
Of course the response of politicians to the crime magnified the outrage. Jitender Chhatar insisted that it was not the caste system, the abuse of women, or the lack of real police protection for “untouchable.” It is the Western food: “Consumption of fast food contributes to such incidents. Chowmein leads to hormonal imbalance, evoking an urge to indulge in such acts. You also know the impact of chowmein, which is a spicy food, on our body.”
That was perhaps less disturbing then the comments of Om Prakash Chautala: “In the past, especially in Mughal era, people used to marry their daughters early to save them from such atrocities. Currently a situation of similar kind is arising in Haryana.” The solution, marry off girls at 15 and rapes will decline.
In this case, police arrested and charged seven men, all members of a higher caste. However, that did not occur under after protests to the failure to bring charges. Many of the police are Jat and refused to file the charges. The family refused to collect the body of the father in protest and the media picked up the story.
The family is now under guard because the higher caste members are threatening to kill them for reporting the crime against higher caste men. In another village, a Dalit girl set herself on fire after falling victim to one of the many gang rapes of lower caste girls.