By Arré Bench Oct. 01, 2020
“In Hathras, cops barricade a raped woman’s home, hijack her corpse, set it afire on a murderous night, deaf to her mother’s howling pain. In a land where Dalits cannot rule, they cannot rage, or even mourn. This has happened before, this will happen again,” writes poet Meena Kandasamy after the Hathras gang-rape.
The rape of a 19-year-old Dalit woman in Uttar Pradesh’s Hathras did not attract much attention when it took place, two weeks ago. The national media, Opposition parties, and UP state authorities only began responding to the horrifying assault this week, after the victim died due to multiple grievous injuries suffered during her assault. In a cruel twist, the UP police cremated the victim’s body without her family, allegedly locking them in their home while the last rites occurred. The violent sexual assault, her tragic death, and the authorities’ callous mismanagement combine to paint a stark picture of the intersecting worlds of caste-based and gender-based violence. There is a collective mourning over how such a thing could come to pass, manifesting through rage, despair, and in some cases, even denial. Poet and caste activist Meena Kandasamy distilled those feelings into a powerful poem, which she titled “Rape Nation”.
— meena kandasamy || இளவேனில் (@meenakandasamy) September 30, 2020
Written on September 29, Kandasamy’s “Rape Nation” is a raw, unfiltered response to the horror unfolding in Uttar Pradesh. The refrain is a haunting, chilling “This has happened before, this will happen again.” The poem hits at a visceral level because it is true. Implacably, awfully true. In fact, on the same day the poem was published, reports emerged of another gang-rape case, from Balrampur, also in UP. And already, those haunting words cut deeper. “This has happened before, this will happen again.”
— saliltripathi (@saliltripathi) September 30, 2020
The poem can be read in full on Kandasamy’s Twitter profile. Within a day of it first appearing online, it has gone viral, being retweeted almost 2,000 times by the afternoon of October 1. Many thanked the writer for finding such apt words to describe the anguish in Hathras – in every Hathras in this country where similar atrocities occur.
— raj bharath patta (@rajpatta) September 30, 2020
Of course, such strong words were bound to elicit strong reactions, and there were BJP members who accused Kandasamy of engaging in “soft terror” when she attacked Manu and Sanatana Dharma in her poem.
But no amount of criticism can take away from the truth. “Rape Nation” is a mirror held up by Kandasamy to the shamed face of Indian society.