PresenterMenon Shailaja - Ambedkar University, School of Liberal Studies, Delhi, India
Panel39 – Citizens at Risk: Caste, Violence and State Institutions in India
The very fact of being a citizen entitles you to certain guarantees of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The law is ideally supposed to be equal for all citizens regardless of their social location. However, the average citizen negotiates with law based on multiple intersecting identities of caste, class, gender and space etc. This becomes more evident when crimes are perpetuated against women, especially of the lower castes, residing in the urban slums. The gendered nature of the crime, the language of the investigating agencies like the police, the legal and civilian administration, the media and civil society, converge to build a narrative of questionable morality and embodied impurities. Such nuisance talk justifies the violence meted out to them.
In an incident in Nagpur, Maharashtra, a mob predominated by lower caste women ‘murdered’ an accused who was on trial for gendered crimes in a slum locality in the court. This unprecedented incident posed many questions on the role of the state institutions regarding the principles of crime and justice. This paper is based on the multiple narratives of this incident both archival and audio-visual to unravel the nature of text and talk, the legal loopholes which enables such violence to continue and the accord among the victims/families to ‘punish’ the perpetrator. It will also reflect on the moral consensus to commit ‘murder in the courtroom’.