#MeToo

Can a Dalit Woman Speak English? Teri Aukat Kya Hoti Hai!

#MeToo Movement against sexual harassment is taking a lot of space in the leading news portals, websites, newspapers and magazines. However it has largely engulfed the media and entertainment industry. Celebrities and high profile personalities are talking against sexual harassment but the voices of the marginalised women are still unheard. BeyondHeadlines has started a #MeToo Campaign to become the voice of these women who do not get an appropriate platform to talk against the harassment they face in their day to day life. We have received many emails regarding this. As of now we are publishing such stories with anonymous identity just to avoid their further harassment.

I was a young girl of 18 when I entered Medical School in Karnataka. I had had some exposure to English through the efforts of the Church. My parents became educated and taught me to speak English. As a result, I lived in a “low-Caste” looking body but spoke a “high-Caste” voice. At college, people could not understand my social location. Many people asked me straight up, “which Caste you belong to?” I would name my Dalit Caste and they would exclaim in surprise. “Oh my God! I thought so but you speak, act and dress so differently!”

I would brood over these exclamations but I never hid my Caste. I was taught at church that we represent a version of what our people could also be, could also look like, and that we should own that look and state our background with truthfulness and assertion.

On the very first day of the first year of college itself, the senior boys started “ragging” us. Most of the ragging was harmless. It was a way for cishet boys to force a shared space with young women who they were interested in who would otherwise most likely not give them the time of the day. There was a lot of power-tripping and “flirting.” Most of the ragging was about saying the alphabet backwards, or reciting a silly rhyme – “You the mighty-mighty senior, we the tiny-tiny junior, please sir, may I sir, go on sir?” Things like this.

I had a special ragger. He was a fair-skinned savarna boy. He wore an elaborate tika on his head every day. He prayed a lot at the nearby temple. He would take his books there and put turmeric on it and get it blessed by the priest. He said he loved his mother very much. He gave speeches during college events about how women “these days” were crossing the limits of “decency” in too many ways.

He also diligently followed me every day under this pretext of ragging. “Who are you?” He asked one day.

“Meaning?”

“Meaning which Caste?”

I angrily told him my Caste.

“What? How do you speak English this way? What fake accent you’re doing? What does your father do?”

He wanted my whole family’s details to the third-generation past.

I wanted nothing more than to not interact with this person. I asked to leave every time although I felt I could not and felt that things would escalate if I walked away.

Soon after he started calling me by my Caste name – “Eh ***** girl, come here!” I told him that was offensive and that I would complain to the administration if he ever called me like that again. One day he kept calling me that way and I kept walking on without responding. He pulled me towards him by grabbing my backpack. I turned around and slapped him.

There were not many people in that hallway at that time and not many people noticed the slap. But his face turned red and then blue in anger. I kept my stare focused. I told him, “I warned you. I’m warning you again. If you ever call me that I will slap you again and next time it will be in front of a lot of people so you decide your course of action from here on. I am not your **** girl. In the past, maybe our people were choiceless and seemed okay to be called like that. But not here. Here you and I are the same. You and I both have studied here. I will never be and our people will never be your slaves. Remember that. Don’t even dream about a thing like that.”

I was my father’s daughter at that time, bold and righteous. I meant what I meant, talked what I talked and if you messed with me, I would not think twice to give it back to you.

Three days later, on a Saturday, I was sitting in the cafeteria with my friend. It was a holiday but we were studying for exams. I had left one book in the desk in my class and I told them, I will quickly run and get it, wait here. The college building was almost fully empty but that was to be expected during weekends.

I ran over to the classroom and found my book in the desk and turned around to leave. The savarna boy came in and closed and locked the door. My heart sank. Immediately, I knew something terrible was going to happen. I remember that sensation in my stomach even today. That moment of terror.

He walked towards me. I hit him with the book. He grabbed the book from my hand and threw it to the ground. I tried to slap him and he pushed me to the ground and slapped me. I was in shock for a few seconds but I quickly got up and tried to run. He grabbed me again and threw me on the wall. There, he put his hand over my mouth, unzipped his pants, and raped me. During the rape, he spit on me, he slapped me, he called me a whore. I screamed briefly when his hands weren’t over my mouth but no one heard. The whole time, he whispered in my ear “Teri Aukat Kya Hoti Hai. Teri Aukat Kya Hoti Hai. Teri Aukat Kya Hoti Hai.” Again, and again.

I can never forget these words. These words have haunted me every night and every day of my life since that day.

I don’t know when it was over. When it was over, he wasn’t there. I collected my things and went to hostel without going to the cafeteria to meet my friend. I have no thoughts or even memories of what happened the next few days. Everything was a haze.

Many things in my life became different and difficult for me after that incident.

Note : If you have a story or opinion on #MeToo, you can share it with BeyondHeadlines at [email protected].in

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