TN Dalit woman allegedly accosted with knife, raped and abused

Mangai* was allegedly subjected to a casteist slur while she was sexually assaulted by a man in Ariyalur district on February 27.
TN Dalit woman allegedly accosted with knife, raped and abused
TN Dalit woman allegedly accosted with knife, raped and abused
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Mangai*, a 26-year-old Dalit woman, was on her way to a ration shop in her locality in Ariyalur district to submit a form to buy subsidised rice for her family. But the trip on February 27 turned into a nightmare for Mangai after a Vanniyar man allegedly accosted her with a knife, raped her for an hour and hurled casteist abuses at her.

Mangai and her husband Maran*, a daily wage labourer, live with their two children and Maran’s parents in Ariyalur. The couple belong to the Parayan community, which is a Scheduled Caste community in Tamil Nadu.

On Wednesday afternoon last week, Mangai, a homemaker, was walking to the ration shop nearby to submit the required form for groceries under the Antyodaya Anna Yojana (AAY) scheme, under which eligible families can purchase 35 kg of rice at Rs 2 per kilo. But the person-in-charge was not present, so Mangai decided to return home to manage her household work instead of waiting at the shop.

But Mangai was intercepted by Gopi, a man belonging to the Vanniyar caste, an OBC community that is dominant in Tamil Nadu. Mangai begged him to leave her alone, but he allegedly assaulted and verbally abused her, then raped her. Mangai's ordeal is detailed in an FIR filed at the Ariyalur AWPS.

“I've known Gopi for the past three years. He works with a tractor. My mother-in-law and I have gone to his house to work and that is all I know of him. After that he used to look at me in a wrong way and show gestures regularly which I used to ignore. On Wednesday, when I was coming back from the ration shop, he intercepted me and forced me to go with him. When I refused and moved forward, he grabbed me from behind by my hair,” according to the FIR.

Narrating her painful experience, the FIR also mentions that Gopi allegedly used a casteist slur against her while sexually assaulting her, and threatened to kill her if she shouted for help.

“He held a knife close to my neck, raped me for an hour and escaped from the spot. I somehow struggled to get up and then went home and narrated the incident to my mother-in-law,” Mangai says, in the FIR. Speaking to TNM about the incident, Mangai says that since Maran was out of town on Wednesday, she went to the police station with her father-in-law. However, she adds that the police in the station were anything but cooperative in registering an FIR.

“I have studied only till class 7. Hence I don’t know the procedure much. The one who took down my complaint was in fact on the phone with the father of the accused. I fear that the police will side with them,” she told TNM.

TNM spoke to a police officer in the Ariyalur police station where the FIR was filed. “We have registered an FIR under section 376 (Rape) and 506 (Criminal intimidation) of the IPC and relevant sections of the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act. The accused has been arrested and remanded,” the police officer said. However, the district police denied succumbing to any form of pressure in the investigation.

Maran, however, tells TNM that the issue is not about a single incident, but about the plight of Dalit communities. “Now this happened to my wife, what is the guarantee that it will not happen to an unmarried young girl? I want justice for my wife and a better society for the future generations of my caste. My wife was raped because of the fact that we cannot do anything as we are from an oppressed caste. I want this notion gone,” he says.

*Names changed to protect identity

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