The brutal rape and murder in Telangana has shaken the very conscience of the nation. With widespread outrage not limited to social media, the case has occupied the media’s primary focus and rightly so. While primarily and exclusively, rape is about men exerting their depraved power over women, it is the Left which often peels layers and concerns itself with semantics. They did so in the Telangana case as well, and this article is to present the other side of the story. It is to understand why the identity of the rapist is also of consequence by extrapolating the Left’s theories.
The main accused in the case is one Mohammad Pasha. Pasha was the mastermind of the heinous crime and the one who was responsible for killing her. It was Pasha who smothered her while raping her and it is he who strangled her by putting his hands on her nose and mouth. By all accounts, whether it is the remand report or even Left websites like The Quint who are trying to interview his mother to paint him as a victim of poverty, the foremost accused is Pasha. The other three accused, equally brutal, are Jollu Shiva, Jollu Naveen and Chennakeshavulu.
With Mohammad Pasha alias Mohammad Ali alias Arif being the mastermind of this heinous crime, it was obvious for his name to be splashed everywhere. His identity as a Muslim, fuelled his name being highlighted further.
The Left immediately sprung up to action and condemned the crime being given a “communal colour”. In fact, The Quint, that is now trying to whitewash the Mohammad by interviewing his poor mother, did a fact-check that essentially slammed “BJP supporters” for communalising the incident. India Today even tweeted that ‘Rapists have no religion’ while using a Hijabi woman as their model.
When a heinous crime such as this happened, should the perpetrator be the prime focus or the victim? This is the first, foremost and the eternal question that plagues reportage and conversation around such issues. However, even if the victim is the focus, the invariable glare comes on to the monsters who would so brutally snuff the life out of an innocent.
The contention here, however, was not the fact that the perpetrators were being spoken about. The content of the Left was that the ‘right’ was communalising the crime by focussing on Mohammad instead of all 4 perpetrators (the others were not Muslims).
At this juncture, one must ask the broader question independent of the Telangana case but not excluding it – is there a rationale of mentioning the identity of the perpetrator when he is a Muslim and the victim is a Hindu?
To answer that question we must understand why media and the Left highlight the identity of Dalit victims even in crimes which are not motivated by caste considerations and then understand whether that rationale holds true for crimes where the perpetrator or the main conspirator of a crime is a Muslim and the victim is a Hindu.
Why the identity of a Dalit victim is mentioned after a crime and the concept of ‘Intersectionality’
It is often noticed that the caste identity of a Dalit victim is mentioned by the media and the Left while reporting crimes. The non-Left has theorised that this is perhaps to drive a wedge in the society and further the narrative that in Hindu majority India, Dalits and lower-castes are brutalised on a regular basis and therefore, further the ‘Muslim-Dalit unity’ trope that would then help ‘secular fronts’ electorally. Essentially, the non-Left has religated this practice of mentioning the caste identity of Dalit victims to the ‘break-India project’ and the project to demonise Hindus.
While that may be the agenda for several media houses and Left intelligentsia, the rationale behind highlighting the caste identity of Dalit victims has a separate origin altogether. The theory essentially believes that the victim would have been at a lower risk had her identity not been that of a Dalit and hence, mentioning the caste identity is essential as even if the crime is not motivated by caste animosity, the victim was at a higher risk by virtue of her caste. To reach this conclusion, the sociological theory of ‘Intersectionality’ must be understood threadbare.
‘Intersection’ is essentially the point where two entities meet. This concept is then extrapolated to society in general. When talking about the sociological concept of Intersectionality, one must understand what society and people are defined as. The society is defined by the people, the social constructs, way of living and belief system. When it comes to the people who make up that society, one needs to understand what a person’s identity is. Identity itself is essential ‘who a person is and what he identifies himself as’. An individual is made up of his beliefs and qualities and those which are unique to him, identify him as a person which, in turn, shapes his perceptions and value systems. A person, through his own perceptions and value systems, identifies himself and what his relationship is with the society on the whole. The perception and value system of the individual is shaped by the messages he receives from the society, his school, parents, neighbourhood, religious institutions, so on and so forth.
Intersectionality is thus a theoretical framework for understanding how aspects of one’s social and political identities (e.g., gender, race, class, sexuality, disability, etc.) might combine to create unique modes of discrimination. So for example, a Jewish woman might be discriminated against not exclusively for her Jewish identity or gender identity but because both these identities intersect and create a unique form of discrimination in a place where Christian women are not discriminated against. Or, where a black woman is more discriminated against than a black man. For instance, a White woman is less privileged than a White Man but more privileged than a Black Man.
Applying this theory, the caste and gender identities of a Dalit woman are mentioned in the media when a crime is committed, since the victim was at a higher risk of being discriminated against not just because of the historical suppression of Dalits on the whole but also because of her gender identity even if the crime is not motivated specifically by caste animosity.
While the media does overdo it and their motivations might be suspect, there is merit to the argument that a Dalit woman living in a disadvantaged area is more at risk than an upper-caste woman in the same area or in a more affluent area and thus, it is not incorrect to mention the caste and gender identity of the victim who might have been at a higher risk due to the intersectionality of her identities.
Intersectionality should apply not only to the victim but also the perpetrator
Intersectionality as a concept is mostly applied to the victim where intersecting identities of the victim puts her at a greater risk of discrimination. However, the concept of Intersectionality must also apply to the perpetrator on how his intersecting identities make him more prone to committing a crime against the victim, whose intersecting identities puts her at greater risk with respect to the perpetrator in question.
While the identity of the victim is important and nothing can diminish that, the identity of the perpetrator how the identities of the victim and the perpetrator intersect at a societal level is equally important to understand the risk the victim faces historically.
It is pertinent to understand here that in a country as diverse as India, it is not only the identity of the victim that determines the factor of risk but also the identity of the perpetrator. It is important to understand how the two communities view each other through social constructs that determine the factor of risk the victim faces from the perpetrators of a particular identity.
For example, the media in India and the Left mentions the Dalit identity to drive home the point that Dalits are oppressed by upper-caste Hindus. Here, it is not only the identity of the Dalit victim that is in play but also the identity of the perpetrator. That the Left mentions the identity even of the perpetrator does not take away the gender identity or the caste identity of the victim. However, the victim was not at higher risk only because of her identity as a Dalit woman but also because of the intersectional identity of the perpetrator – Upper-caste Hindu male.
Why the same theory must be applied when the perpetrator is a Muslim and the victim is a Hindu
While the Left highlights the intersecting identities of a Dalit woman when a crime is committed, when the identity of a Muslim criminal is mentioned especially in sexual crimes against Hindu women, the allegation that is often hurled is that the non-Left is trying to ‘communalise’ a crime. However, if the same theory is applied to such crimes, would it not justify highlighting the religious identity of the criminal when the perpetrator is a Muslim and the victim is a Hindu?
The sociological concept of Intersectionality itself admits that tenets of the concept are fluid and change depending upon time and place. For example, we do not talk about race or gender contracts the way we used to 100 years ago.
When we talk about religious identities, one must also acknowledge in no uncertain terms that Hindus and Muslims have been co-existing in India but the historicity of that relationship is strained and blood-soaked at the very least.
Hindus have seen over 800 years of Islamic rule where they were beaten, raped, killed and converted. Where their temples were trampled upon and their identity as Hindus was under siege. Post the Islamic rule, in Independent India, the atrocities committed by Islamists have not stopped, whether the Left likes to believe it or not. If we take Kashmir, for example, India’s only Muslim dominated state, the picture becomes evident. The Hindu minority of the state were beaten, raped, murdered and cleansed from the state. The slogans that emanated from the mosques of Kashmir in the 90s said that Hindu men should leave the valley but leave their women behind for the Islamists. The chants also asked the Hindus to either convert to Islam or leave the valley.
With these examples alone it is acceptable to conclude that Hindus have been historically at a disadvantaged position with respect to Muslims in India and have often been victimised, brutally, by Muslims.
Other than collective crimes by the Muslim community like that of the Islamic invasion and the plight of Hindus in Kashmir, several crimes at the individual level too have proved that Muslims are more likely to victimise Hindus and this barring the acts of rioting that the Muslim community has initiated.
A large section of Muslims believe that Hindus are Kafirs and idol-worshippers who deserve sub-human treatment, even death. The mentality is evident in several cases like that of Kamlesh Tiwari, where he was brutally murdered for allegedly insulting the Prophet of Islam. Without getting into a long-winded section explaining an established truth, a list of 50 crimes that were committed by Muslims against Hindus in a short span of time can be read to get the drift.
With the established truth that Muslims are more likely to target Hindus, in crimes where Muslims are the perpetrators, mentioning the religious identity of the Muslim is pertinent considering it is the intersectionality of the Hindu and Muslim identities of the victim and perpetrator that puts the Hindus at higher risk of being victimised.
Why mentioning Muslim identity is even more pertinent when the victim is a Hindu woman
Intersectionality is a sociological concept says that intersecting identifies give rise to unique models of oppression. We have already established the Hindu identity itself puts a victim at a higher risk when the perpetrator is a Muslim. With intersecting identities of gender and religion, the Hindu woman is placed at a higher risk than Hindu men, for example, or Muslim women when the perpetrator is a Muslim.
Historically, Hindu women have been oppressed brutally by Muslims. One recalls the rampant rapes during the Islamic rule, and even in Kashmir where women were brutally raped by Islamists. It is a technique that many Islamists adapt to convert Kafir women to Islam. In recent times too, we have seen several cases where the Muslim perpetrator victimised the Hindu woman. There have been rampant cases of Love-Jihad where Muslim men trap Hindu women with the excuse of a relationship and then, convert, rape and/or murder.
It is thus established that the intersecting identities of gender (women) and religion (Hindu) do put women at a higher risk. In individual cases, one can never judge the risk factor. Even when Dalit women are victimised and their identities mentioned as such, it is entirely possible that in a particular case, the intersecting identities of gender and caste played no role in her victimisation. However, the identity is mentioned due to Intersectionality, as a matter of principle keeping in mind the history of abuse and oppression faced by Dalit women.
In the case of Hindu women too, nobody says that in every case, the Hindu woman’s religion and gender identity is necessarily a contributing factor for the Muslim perpetrator, but as a principle, considering the historicity of atrocities by Muslims on Hindu women, the identity of the perpetrator must be mentioned.
In the Telangana case, for example, the head of the gang that committed the heinous crime was Mohammad Pasha, a Muslim. The victim was a Hindu woman. Now, we do not know the religiosity of Pasha himself, however, as a principle, one is to ask if the women would have been at less risk if she was a Hijabi woman instead and was the victim at a higher risk because of her intersectional identity of being a Hindu woman in front of a Muslim perpetrator.
While there is no correct answer considering we do not know the level of indoctrination or religiosity of Pasha, the identity of the Muslim perpetrator is to be mentioned, just as the caste and gender identity of the Dalit woman victim is mentioned regardless of motivating factors of the crime.
What happens when the victim is a Dalit woman and a perpetrator is a Muslim man?
We have already established that the Muslim identity of the perpetrator is an essential component and should be mentioned when the victim if a Hindu woman. However, what happens when the victim is a Dalit woman and the perpetrator is a Muslim man?
The media is often extremely dishonest when it comes to such crimes. As explained in detail, intersectionality is when the intersecting identities of an individual put her at a higher risk. As also discussed above, when the perpetrator is of Muslim identity, the intersecting identities of both the perp and the victim play a role in determining the risk factor that the victim faces.
When a Muslim man victimises a Dalit woman, one must ask the very important question of which intersecting identity of that woman put her in harm’s way. Was it her identity as a Dalit woman or as a Hindu woman? When the perpetrator is a Muslim, one has to assume that for him, the differentiation between a Brahmin woman and a Dalit woman does not exist. For him, the two intersecting identities that put the victim at a higher risk is that of gender (woman) and that of her religion (Hindu) and not of her caste (Dalit). For a Muslim, per his religion, all Hindu women are Kafirs and thus, the Muslim will not differentiate between different castes.
In such a scenario, one has to ask why the media and the Left continue to highlight the Dalit woman identity of the victim instead of the intersecting identities of a Muslim man victimising a Hindu woman? While the concept in itself holds merit, it is this chicanery of the media that raises several doubts on their intent.
This theory of Intersectionality, while a sociological concept is rooted in Marxism. While the roots and their explanation is a subject for another day, it suffices to say that the concept itself is rooted in communism and its allied offshoots such as feminism. One has to wonder why then does the Left often raise hell when the Muslim identity of the perpetrator is mentioned? Is it because if their denial to accept empirical evidence that Muslims are often the oppressing force or their blatant agenda that Hindu lives aren’t as precious as Muslim lives? Their misplaced notions that Dalits are not Hindus and are in fact closer to Muslims in their political fantasy? Either way, while we reject Communism, their theory of Intersectionality, to have merit, must be applied to all categories of crimes, which also means that the Muslim identity of the perpetrator must be explicitly mentioned when the victim is a Hindu woman.
Identity is the principal focus of the theory of intersectionality. It mandates that every individual be viewed through the prism of his collective identity, This theory is extremely mainstream in the Left and acquired the status of a hallowed doctrine in academia. Concepts such as ‘Savarna privilege’ and ‘White Male Privilege’ have their origins in this theory. Therefore, leftists cannot discard this theory simply because the current situation does not suit their agenda. It must be applied in all situations uniformly. Leftists cannot argue that every individual and situation must be viewed through the prism of the identities of the individuals involved and then claim that the Muslim identity of the rapist does not matter when the victim is a Hindu woman.
Editor, OpIndia.com since October 2017