One more in the growing list: 20-year-old Dalit woman raped by upper caste men in TN

One more in the growing list: 20-year-old Dalit woman raped by upper caste men in TN
One more in the growing list: 20-year-old Dalit woman raped by upper caste men in TN

On Sunday night, 20-year-old Vani* had stepped outside of her home to use the open toilet in the back, customary of many homes among the Dalit community in Tamil Nadu.

She was immediately caught and gang raped by two men belonging to higher castes – Kallar and Aasari.

Vani, a Dalit girl hailing from Saliyamangalam district in Thanjavur was found dead after the gang rape and assault, the two men were arrested a day later on Tuesday.

“They stuffed her underwear in her mouth to muffle her screams and raped her,” says Selvaraj, the investigating officer in the case. The men were sniffed out by a police dog after they were found to be absconding from their homes. The two confessed shortly after says the police.

A case has been taken against the two men under sections of rape, murder and Section 325 of the SC/ST act.

The girl’s father, Rajendran, worked odd jobs as a waste picker and a scavenger in the local municipality. Vani used to live with her aunt, her two brothers who had jobs outside the village used to make regular visits. Rajendran who was living with his second wife would visit occasionally. Vani’s mother had passed away many years ago.

“She was so young; she didn’t study beyond 8thstandard, and took care of the house. She never stepped out except for buying glasses of tea. We always lived a quiet life. Why did this happen to us?” Rajendran, said.

Saliyamangalam, according to Kathir from Evidence NGO, a small town located near the Thanjavur-Nagapttinam highway has a high incidence of discrimination against Dalits. "We want the two accused booked under the Goondas act, so they don't escape by securing a bail or receive a minimal sentence," he said.

“Why is it that when Swathi’s murder gets national media attention, nobody bats an eyelid at the rape and murder of a Dalit girl,” asks Kavin Malar, a journalist. “Even in the Nirbhaya case, the rape of a dalit girl Punitha in Thoothukudi never got national media attention. Time and time again, the media has proven that the more brutal the rape, the more publicity it gets,” she rues.

Malar recounts an instance where in east Thanjavur near Vedaranyam, a 60 year old man raped a school girl, but no action was taken. "Many policemen themselves belong to the dominant caste, and they are likely to either downplay or take the side of the upper caste men who commit such crimes," she says.  

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