On Sunday night, 20-year-old Vani* had stepped outside her home to use the open toilet in the back, customary of many homes in the Dalit community in Tamil Nadu.
She was caught and gangraped by two men belonging to higher castes – Kallar and Aasari.
A Dalit girl hailing from Saliyamangalam district in Thanjavur, Vani was found dead after the gang rape and assault, and the two men were arrested a day later on Tuesday.
Selvaraj, the investigating officer in the case said:
They stuffed her underwear in her mouth to muffle her screams and raped her.
The two men who confessed shortly after being caught were sniffed out by a police dog when they were found to be absconding from their homes.
A case has been filed 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 was a scavenger in the local municipality. Vani used to live with her aunt and her two brothers who had jobs outside the village and visited her regularly.
Vani’s mother had passed away many years ago and Rajendran, who was living with his second wife would visit Vani occasionally.
She was so young; she didn’t study beyond 8th standard, and took care of the house. She never stepped out except to buy glasses of tea. We always lived a quiet life. Why did this happen to us?Rajendran, Victim’s Father
Saliyamangalam, according to Kathir from Evidence NGO, a small town located near the Thanjavur-Nagapttinam highway has a high incidence of violence 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.Kathir, Evidence NGO
“Why is it that Swathi’s murder gets national media attention, but nobody bats an eyelid at the rape and murder of a Dalit girl” said, Kavin Malar, a journalist. She added:
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.
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.Kavin Malar, Journalist
(This article was published in an arrangement with The News Minute)