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

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Rape as Atrocity in Contemporary Haryana

This paper highlights the escalating incidence of sexual violence against Dalit girls by Jats in contemporary Haryana, and the extraordinary struggles unfolding in the battle for justice. Details from a few cases through fact-finding visits and interactions present pictures of suffering and courage within entrenched structures of caste, now under siege. The unique place of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act in contemporary Haryana is another major facet of the struggle under way. The paper poses many questions to the women's movement, the wider democratic public, and the state. How much progress has been made in claims towards restorative justice, whereby victimhood can be transformed into meaningful survival?

Women Against Sexual Violence and State Repression acknowledges with deep gratitude the courage and openness shown by all the rape survivors and their family members in speaking out and sharing their ongoing battles for justice. We are also indebted to the Peoples Media Advocacy and Resource Centre, the Dalit Media Watch team for their work; Rajat Kalsan, activist and advocate with the Human Rights Law Network; Bajrang Indal and Pradeep Ambedkar, members of the Ambedkar Students Union, Hisar; students and teachers of the women’s studies department, University of Kurukshetra; and members of the AIDWA, AIDMAM, and NACDOR who interacted with us. We also thank Padmini Swaminathan for her constructive comments in revising this essay.

This paper is an attempt to expose the ongoing onslaught of sexual violence against Dalit girls and women in Haryana. It is simultaneously an effort to acknowledge the groundswell of a movement against these persistent atrocities. Womens organisations and feminists have repeatedly emphasised that victims of non-fatal rape and sexual assault should be thought of as survivors, fully capable of rebuilding their lives, and therefore requiring not just punitive, but restorative justice. One of the questions before us, in the face of the determination and courage demonstrated by so many in Haryana, is how far we have moved towards our goal of translating victimhood into meaningful survival.

The relentless succession of rapes, gang rapes, murders and sexual assaults has escalated to a point where ofcial attempts to dismiss them as isolated incidents seem ridiculous and callous. Dalit organisations and Dalit womens groups have been at the forefront of bringing these violations into public view. In October 2012, Dalit activists from media watch groups created a map of Haryana with the title 30 Days in a Rape State with locations and basic information on the rape of 19 Dalit girls in several districts during that month alone. A year later, this was followed up with a list of 101 cases from across the country, gleaned from English newspapers, and circulated in August 2013. An updated version of this list was circulated after two months, with the number of cases having shot up by 80% to 180 cases. In July 2015, the Dalit media watch group Peoples Media Advocacy and Resource Centre (PMARC) released a new national list for 2014 of 212 select cases gleaned from English newspapers, involving atrocity, assault, rape and murder against Dalit women.

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