Education is a Fundamental Right. A Fundamental Right should transcend age, race, religion, gender and caste. However, this country that thrives on the social malaise that is the caste system refuses to grant all its citizens what is rightfully (and constitutionally) theirs. When this caste- system meets patriarchy it produces a dangerous cocktail of violence and hegemony. And it spares no one, not even those working towards eradicating it. On 12th May’ 13, when six members of Sahjani Shiksha Kendra (SSK) were physically and verbally attacked by a local village goon in Madawara (UP), a crucial question struck my mind: why does the idea of a woman, especially a Dalit woman, wanting to educate herself instigate such violence?
I am not just talking about the physical or sexual violence. I am also referring to the emotional and mental trauma she faces when all she wants are a few hours away from the daily drudgery and feel empowered.
More such questions ensued when I was standing with my comrades blocking traffic and demanding the world stop and take notice and for once hear these women out. We were being accused of causing unrest and doing public disservice at the behest of a ‘few’ women. What this country doesn’t understand, is that, those women represent thousands who are sick of being controlled and oppressed by this society, by the political system and most importantly by their families.
Violence is the easiest way to target women and silence them. Dalit and Adivasi women within the broader framework of caste- based violence and discrimination are most vulnerable. Historically these women have been denied their basic rights and have faced double discrimination owing to their inferior status on the caste ladder. Development initiatives that work independent off women’s caste identities are perpetuating a common tendency of ignoring a major reason behind their misery and marginalized status. All women are not equal- religion, caste and race divides them. Eradicating these divisions by helping those who figure at the bottom will always be a tough task, but the way forward is relentless work to weed the arrogance of those who feel that their surname grants them the right to physically, emotionally and sexually traumatize others.