Attention – Due To Allegations of Plagiarism, This Article Is Highly Suspect

Vinodini is a Telegu writer who has written short stories, poems and plays and given an identity to the situation of Dalit Christian women. In her short story Mariya, she portrays the story of two sisters, of whom Mariya the elder is the principal character. The story illustrates how the two sisters face discrimination because of their Dalit origins in school, even as they are the pawns in a lust and power and control game played out by their Brahmin landlord, Venkateswara Rao at home. Their father, a petty official finds his solace and comfort in drink and has little to offer to his daughters.

The story underlines the social hypocrisy of the upper castes, which make much of their high caste, their purity and their separateness from the Dalits in public by practising covert untouchability and yet in private exploit the same people sexually and otherwise. Vinodini connects fact with fiction by making references to the gut-wrenching Banwaridevi case, where she was gang-raped in front of her husband by the village supremos, the Rajasthan High Court, while acquitting the accused, noted that Banwaridevi was from a lower caste. The men indicted were from a higher caste. It was not possible for men from the higher caste to rape a woman from the lower caste!

In Mariya, a similar situation occurs. Mariya is raped by her Brahmin landlord Venkateswara Rao and is scrumptiously observed by her younger sister, who has already been raped by Venkateswara’s son, Malli. After Mariya commits suicide in shame and her body is discovered, her sister does the unthinkable and confronts the upper caste landlord but of course to no avail. Venkateaswara Rao’s elder brother who comes into the crisis eulogizes the stain free ancestry of his family and how they have through the generations, scrupulously adhered to the ceremonies of ritual purity and how they had disowned their own younger sister because she happened to marry a shudra.

Vinodini has described the situation of the Dalit Christian sandwiched between the contempt of the upper caste Hindu and the apathy of the church and has depicted even better the situation of the Dalit Christian woman. As a Dalit Christian website expressively puts it “Rape is a common phenomenon in rural areas. Women are raped as part of caste custom or village tradition. Dalit girls have been forced to have sex with the village landlord.  In rural areas, “women are induced into prostitution (Devadasi system)…, which [is] forced on them in the name of religion.” The prevalence of rape in villages contributes to the greater incidence of child marriage in those areas. Early marriage between the ages of ten years and sixteen years persists in large part because of Dalit girls’ vulnerability to sexual assault by upper-caste men; once a girl is raped, she becomes unmarriageable. An early marriage also gives parents greater control over the caste into which their children are married.

Dalit women face the triple burden of caste, class, and gender. Dalit girls have been forced to become prostitutes for upper-caste patrons and village priests. Sexual abuse and other forms of violence against women are used by landlords and the police to inflict political “lessons” and crush dissent within the community.

“No one practices untouchability when it comes to sex.”

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