A 20-year-old Dalit girl with stab marks and burns on her body was found hanging in a private garden in Kancheepuram on Thursday, The New Indian Express reported.
The deceased, identified as Rani (name changed), hailed from Aandi Siruvallur village near Walajabad and worked in a private company in Kancheepuram. The girl’s father, in the police complaint said that he suspects a man, Rajesh (30), with whom Rani was believed to be in a relationship, and a few others had gang-raped and murdered her.
Primary investigation revealed that Rani was in a relationship with Rajesh for the past year, and that Rajesh is married and has two children. Rajesh was estranged from his wife and Rani’s family had warned her against the relationship.
After Rani didn’t return home on November 21 and the family approached the police, the officials asked them to call Rajesh to know his whereabouts, but his phone was switched off.
The police have apprehended Rajesh and he revealed that Rani was with him but had left his place the same night. He didn’t know where she was. However, Rani’s father, Boopathy accused him and others of gang-rape and murder.
The police have registered a case under Sections 306 (abetment to suicide) of the Indian Penal Code and the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act. Kalaichelvan, Kanchi DSP told the paper, “On November 21, Rani did not return from work. After a futile search, her family lodged a complaint at the Kancheepuram taluk police station on November 23. On Wednesday, police received information that a girl was found dead in a private garden 2 km from Rani’s house. The garden belongs to a politician.” They have decided to frame charges of rape and murder only after the post-mortem report comes through.
The body of the deceased has been sent to Kancheepuram Government Hospital for autopsy.
The Vidhutala Chiruthaigal Katchi (VCK) and Communist Party of India (Marxist) (CPI-M) cadre blocked traffic in protest of the death of the girl near the Kancheepuram Collector’s office alleging that the police were helping the ‘upper caste’ perpetrators.
This isn’t the first murder of a Dalit woman. Last year in Thalavaipatti, a village on the outskirts of Salem, a man beheaded his 13-year-old neighbour, Rajalakshmi for she had allegedly spurned his advances.
In May this year, six relatives of a Dalit woman, including a juvenile were arrested for the murder of a woman for having an affair with an ‘upper-caste’ Hindu and bringing disrespect to the family.
Reports by the International Dalit Solidarity Network (IDSN) show that the conviction rate for rapes against Dalit women is under 2% compared to the conviction rate of 25% in rape cases against women from other castes in India.
Dalit women number over 100 million and according to the National Crime Records Bureau, more than four Dalit women are raped every day. The National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights, an NGO, says over 23 percent of Dalit women report being raped, and many have reported multiple instances of rape.
The caste system has ensured widespread impunity in cases of violence where the perpetrator is of a dominant caste, with most getting away with their crimes.
There are many reasons why crime against Dalit women is on the rise. Vulnerability, insecure living conditions and their fight to climb up the ladder apart, the biggest issue that women face is the caste-based power dynamics. Rape is about power and all the cases of sexual violence against Dalit women by upper caste Hindus, be it in rural or urban areas, is just an exercise of power. Till the law, doesn’t acknowledge the problems faced by these women for being from a lower caste, and tilt in their favour to actually protect them, this problem will not wane any time soon.