India shamed again by another brutal rape and murder

Indian protestors shout slogans during a demonstration on May 3, 2016, against the rape and murder of Jisha. (AFP)

Indian protestors shout slogans during a demonstration on May 3, 2016, against the rape and murder of Jisha. (AFP)

The brutal rape and murder of a 30-year-old Dalit law student on April 28 in south India’s Perumbavoor municipality in Kerala has sent shock waves around the country. 

The postmortem on the victim, who has been named only as Jisha in the media, confirmed she was raped, stabbed 38 times, including two deep wounds in her chest, and her intestines were pulled out of her body.

The depravity is reminiscent of a violent gang rape in south Delhi that shocked the nation in December 2012. Jyoti Singh, a 23-year-old student, was raped, beaten and tortured on a bus, then thrown out on to the street, naked and bleeding. Singh, who was being referred to as Nirbhaya, or “the fearless one”, in the media, later died of her injuries.

Six days after Jisha’s murder, Kerala state police have failed to arrest anyone. The case is quickly becoming political, with Kerala’s opposition party, the Communist Party of India (Marxist), blaming the United Democratic Front-run state government for the lack of progress. Assembly polls are scheduled to be held on May 16, and the National Human Rights Commission has taken suo moto (on its own motion) cognisance of the incident. The police had arrested a suspect from the city of Kannur, but his fingerprints did not match those gathered at the crime scene.

Since the horrific incident started being reported in the media, public outrage has been palpable. Many people have participated in protest marches organised in different parts of Kerala. Activists and students came together to voice their anger and discontent over the dismal state of affairs regarding women’s security and rights in India.

The mainstream media stand accused of not giving enough screen or print space to Jisha. Some have theorised this has to do with the urban-rural divide as well as caste-based discrimination, with national grief and mourning being reserved for the urban and upper-caste people.

Dalit means “oppressed” and is the self-chosen political name for castes historically considered “untouchable” in the Hindu caste system.

Discrimination against Dalits, although prohibited under Indian law, remains common. Crimes against Dalits have risen 245% in the past 10 years.

Social media were rife with demands for justice. Jisha’s murder didn’t happen in isolation, and so social media commentary has also touched on many issues, including patriarchy, masculinity, police inaction, rape culture, victim-blaming, Dalit rights and women’s rights. 

One can only hope that all sectors of Indian society will come together so that there is an end to the injustice, and that women like Jisha and Nirbhaya never again will have to endure such violence and suffering. – globalvoices.org

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