What is the honor in crime?

A 17 years old Dalit woman was paraded naked and her hair was cut by the member of a Self Help Group, in village Ranidih, Giridih, Jharkhand. When Jharkhand state was bringing social justice and rule of law as the heart of the state. Yet, the situation remains bleak there with women at the receiving end.

The story of this Dalit woman could not gain headlines in the state as there was no popular protest against the same even when there are hundreds of organizations claiming to work for Dalits. And the reason is simple. That the perpetrators of this crime are not so called ‘upper castes’ but the community women themselves. Now if the same case was perpetrated by non Dalits, we would have been clamoring for filing of FIRs under Prevention of Atrocity Act, 1989 against SCSTs but these women remain free. The state police have not taken any action.

The girl Sugani Devi is a daily wage worker. Married twice in this young age, she was staying with her father and was found talking to a man from another village, by a village youth. An altercation happened between a village youth Lakhan Das with the woman and she asked him to mind his own business resulting in thrashing of the girl by Lakhan. All this happened on the night of May 5. Lakhan then went to village and instigated the village Self Help Group women who were considered to be a little ‘dabang’ among the community women. On the morning of May 6 around 10 am, nearly 12 women came in group to the house of this hapless girl and dragged her out despite protest from the family members. As the family consists of daily wage workers, most of the men were out and it was just women folk in the village.

The group then slapped the girl mercilessly, took her to the compound of a local government school and tore her clothes. They asked the men to leave the place saying that they will take care of the girl. The girls hair were cut short, she was then garlanded with shoes and chappals and took around the village. The entire event took place between 10 am and 3 pm.

The girl was subjected to brutal humiliation under the scorching sun and no police action has been taken so far. We are told that the FIR is already diluted and in the village no one is ready to be a witness. The condition of the girl is absolutely painful. She had not eaten food till the time we had gone there and looked completed dejected and desperate to get out of humiliation. No political party, no social activist and Dalit right activist visited her.

The incident throws light on the issue of selective criticism by the community of activists. It is tragic that even the discrimination is calculatedly criticized. Discrimination has become a crime when somebody from another community commits it but it becomes an ‘honor’ if this happen within a respected community. The tragedy in these incidents is that at the end of the day it is the woman who suffer. Sugani paid a price because the moral brigade wanted to control her. They were afraid because she was talking to men. The question is who has authorized these people to decide who should I speak with? Is the penalty of speaking to unknown people so high that she be paraded naked?

It is time for us to think. Such incidents of community’s honor crime are happening daily and we have to think why we are so worried about this honor. Where is the honor in humiliating a woman? Why is honor only related to women? India cannot afford such crime and punishing the perpetrators is needed to send a message of liberal social values to all.

Vidya Bhushan Rawat

A human rights activist, writer and film maker, the author has widely traveled in India and abroad and has spoken at the various national and international conferences.