After recent events in India, this is an immensely powerful piece from 2005. I suggest you read it all. It comes with a very strong trigger warning for rape, however.
At 3pm on August 13 2004, Akku Yadav was lynched by a mob of around 200 women from Kasturba Nagar. It took them 15 minutes to hack to death the man they say raped them with impunity for more than a decade. Chilli powder was thrown in his face and stones hurled. As he flailed and fought, one of his alleged victims hacked off his penis with a vegetable knife. A further 70 stab wounds were left on his body. The incident was made all the more extraordinary by its setting. Yadav was murdered not in the dark alleys of the slum, but on the shiny white marble floor of Nagpur district court.
Laughed at and abused by the police when they reported being raped by Yadav, the women took the law into their own hands. A local thug, Yadav and his gang had terrorised the 300 families of Kasturba Nagar for more than a decade, barging into homes demanding money, shouting threats and abuse.
Residents say he murdered at least three neighbours and dumped their bodies on railway tracks. They had reported his crimes to the police dozens of times. Each time he was arrested, he was granted bail.
But it was rape that Yadav used to break and humiliate the community. A rape victim lives in every other house in the slum, say the residents of Kasturba Nagar. He violated women to control men, ordering his henchmen to drag even girls as young as 12 to a nearby derelict building to be gang-raped.
In India, even to admit to being raped is taboo, yet dozens of Yadav’s victims reported the crime. But the 32-year-old was never charged with rape. Instead, the women say, the police would tell him who had made the reports and he would come after them. According to residents, the police were hand-in-glove with Yadav: he fed the local officers bribes and drink, and they protected him.
When one 22-year-old reported being raped by Yadav, the police accused her of having an affair with him and sent her away. Several others were sent away after being told: “You’re a loose woman. That’s why he raped you.”
On the day of Yadav’s hearing, 200 women came to the court armed with vegetable knives and chilli powder. As he walked in, Yadav spotted one of the women he had raped. He called her a prostitute and threatened to repeat the crime against her. The police laughed. She took off her sandal and began to hit him, shouting, “We can’t both live on this Earth together. It’s you or me.”
It was a rallying cry to an incensed mob. Soon, he was being attacked on all sides. Knives were drawn and the two terrified officers guarding him ran away. Within 15 minutes, Yadav was dead on the courthouse floor. But his death has not brought the women peace. Five were immediately arrested, then released following a demonstration across the city. Now every woman living in the slum has claimed responsibility for the murder. They say no one person can take the blame: they have told the police to arrest them all.
But it is Narayane who is in limbo as she waits for her case to be heard. “After the murder, society’s eyes opened: the police’s failings came to light. That has irritated them. The police see me as a catalyst for the exposure and want to nip it in the bud.”
They face a fight. Narayane is loudly unrepentant. “I’m not scared. I’m not ashamed,” she says. “We’ve done a good thing for society. We will see whether society repays us”.
[Read the rest: guardian]
- Rape was used to break and humiliate the community. (veganmyway.tumblr.com)
- [link] Sexual violence is not a cultural phenomenon in India – it is endemic everywhere (feimineach.com)
- Indian Woman Goes To Police To Report Rape And Is Allegedly Raped By Two Police Investigators (jonathanturley.org)
- 10 reasons why India has a sexual violence problem (washingtonpost.com)
- 17-year-old Indian rape victim takes her own life (itv.com)
- Indian rapper caught in gang rape backlash (abc.net.au)
- Teen Victim of Gang-Rape Commits Suicide: The Issue with ‘Rape’ and ‘Shame’ (genderbytes.wordpress.com)
- Don’t Tell Women What to Wear, Tell Men not to Rape (freethoughtblogs.com)