ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Lessons from a Hanging

The Budaun rape and murder exposes the everyday reality of sexual violence.

In the iconography of rape and sexual violence, the image of two teenage girls hanging from a mango tree in Katra Sadatganj village, Budaun district, Uttar Pradesh (UP), will be long remembered. The image, including the depiction of mute onlookers, tells us more than what happened on the night of 27 May 2014. The two cousins went out under cover of darkness to the fields, their only toilet, as they would have done everyday. Yet this day was not like every other day as they were dragged away by a group of men, gang-raped and their ravaged bodies strung up and hung from a tree.

The fact that the two girls belonged to a lower caste, while their alleged rapists and murderers are of the caste that now rules UP, reflects the dismal reality that caste-based violence is nowhere near ending in 21st century India. The fact that even as these men raped and killed the two girls they also chose to hang their dead and assaulted bodies from a tree tells us how men from politically powerful castes seek to send out a message to those they oppress. It also exposes their sense of impunity because they know their kin hold the reins of political power. The incident also shows us the complete helplessness of the lower castes in such situations. When the father of one of the girls went to the police to report her missing, he was slapped around and sent back. That the families have demanded, and got, the government to agree to a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) inquiry under these circumstances is hardly surprising.

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