A Google search run from the safety of your workstation or the comfort of your home isn’t always unsettling. Except if you run a search on ‘caste killingsIndia’. It gives you nearly four crore results, like Google does. And the first couple of pages throw up newspaper reports of murders, rapes and scuffles over caste disputes every few months, every year over decades-worth of online news archives.
Like the latest is an April 25 report in which a Muslim girl in Mumbai was killed by her father, who flew into rage and banged her head against the wall till she died. Nineteen-year-old Tabassum was in love with 21-year-old Imran and had asked to be married off to him. Imran, according to the deceased’s parents, belonged to a lower caste.
Higher up on the page, another report from February, talks about 22-year-old Pradip, who was gunned down inChandigarh, after he topped his batch of mechanical engineering students in college. His fault? He was not a Jat (unlike his killers) and belonged to a ‘low’ caste of carpenters. These, we can presume are city-events, ones we come to know of, ones the media can lap up and chew over as breaking stories.
Something like the Ramabai Nagar rioting case which killed 10 Dalits in Mumbai in 1997. July 11 will mark 15 years of the incident where the Special Reserve Police Force (SRPF) opened fire on a mob of Dalit people who the officer-in-command suggested had tried to attack the police and set an oil tanker on fire.
The largely-Dalit neighbourhood had woken up to a statue of B R Ambedkar in their locality garlanded with shoes. To which they protested and blocked the Eastern Express Highway. The case dragged for over a decade ending with the conviction of SRPF officer Manohar Kadam and acquittal of several Dalits who had been arrested for rioting.
Fifteen years on, not many know what happened. Not many remember. The rest don’t care. Riots, to them, happen to people an education, a world, a social class away. People get killed in the hinterland of Bihar for belonging to castes who mend shoes for a living, people get killed in the chilly nights of Noida for falling in love with people one rung lower in the hierarchy of farmers, once in a while there’s a riot in a Bombay in a not-so-upscale Mumbai suburb. They grudge them for a while, spit a silent curse, log out of their laptops or put down the newspapers and go back living their humdrum, adequately academic, scar-free middle class, upper middle class lives.
It’s another thing that the same newspapers they wait for every morning carry four pages of advertisements wanting ‘brides’ and ‘grooms’ neatly separated by pink or yellow highlights. And the zillion Indian castes and sub-castes.