Do Not Rest in Peace, Jisha: Shehla Rashid

Guest Post by Shehla Rashid

(Pictures by Biju Ibrahim)

Dear Jisha, I never knew you, nor did you know me.

You were probably a “usual” student, pursuing your studies, dreaming of a better future for yourself and your country. You were probably someone like Rohith Vemula, who dreamed of stars and skies. I learnt that you were a Law student, but I regret to tell you that the Law of this country fails us miserably.

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It is because a Bhanwari Devi does not get justice that Bhagana happens. It’s because no one in Bhagana gets justice that a Delta Meghwal happens. It is because a Delta Meghwal does not get justice that a Jisha happens. And most painfully, I can predict that you may not get justice either.

This is because the Law that you studied is not the law that actually runs this country- this country runs according to a parallel law which is called Manusmriti. It is routinely quoted by judges in their judgments, but perhaps you wouldn’t have studied that in Law school. It is the law of Manusmriti that prescribes limits for women and limits for Dalits.

That women should not go out after a certain time, that women should not study and become independent, that Dalits should not study or acquire skills, is embedded in the law that actually runs this country.

You probably loved this country, but I regret to tell you that this is no country for women. On the contrary, if you had ever questioned patriarchy or caste or class, they would have shoved a slogan or two down your throat. “Bolo Bharat Mata ki Jai”, “Bolo Vande Mataram” are the two favorite responses of our government to anyone who complains of injustice.

I am guessing you were a patriot and loved your country, but alas, declaration of Bharat Mata ki Jai wouldn’t come to your help when you were being murdered and raped. I shudder to think about the brutal details of your rape that have emerged. They make me wonder if all the people who kill their daughters in infancy do the correct thing. Such a desperate thought to occur to someone like me, who is supposed to be strong and calm! But it could have been me, it could have been anyone. I didn’t know you, but I can think about the terror that you must have felt.

Whatever has been done with you has been said to me in threats by BJP supporters on Twitter. Where does this thinking come from? How is there such a tremendous uniformity in the actions of your rapists and the words of the Sanghi trolls? It is the ideology of Manu, the ideology of hatred and caste patriarchy that drives both sets of criminals to do and say such things.

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[ ‘Justice for Jisha’ Protest at Kozhikode, Kerala. Photographs by Biju Ibrahim ]

You will not get justice because we are quick to blame the rape on everything, but its real cause. We are ready to blame the rape on the dress and choices of women, on poverty, on alcohol, on chowmein, on mobile phone and other absurd things, but not on patriarchy, feudalism, commodification of women by capitalism, on caste, on our society.

We are told not to do politics and focus on studies, when we raise issues of justice for women like you, women like survivors of Bhagana mass rapes, the women getting raped at gun point in Kashmir and Northeast and for women like Soni Sori, whose rapist is given the gallantry award because she is labelled as a Maoist for opposing corporate onslaught on the tribals of this country.

You were probably one such student, among millions of others, who was studying and not doing politics. But the brutality of this society did not spare you. The brutality that you’ve faced did not result from a personal hatred against you, I believe, but from deep-seated biases against women, from rampant misogyny, from the treatment of women as commodities, as things to be used and discarded.

The violence that you’ve faced is only a manifestation of the hatred that prevails against all women, against me, against my friends, against all thinking, speaking, working, studying, questioning, politically active women, especially since we are not the traditional social elites. How dare they trespass their gender? How dare they trespass their second class minority status? How dare they trespass their lower caste status?

We are told not to “divide” people when we raise issues of caste, class, gender, race, disability and so on. We are told that, since it has been written down in Law, equality has been achieved!

But the ugly realities of caste will dawn upon us pretty soon, when we demand justice for you, when despite your case being as brutal as that of the young woman everyone called Nirbhaya, it will not shake the national conscience, when, perhaps, no one in your case will be punished hard enough, except if they are poor.

How I wish, as a fellow woman, I could say to you, Rest in Peace, sister. But the times we are living in, do not allow me to say that.

I am forced to say, DO NOT REST IN PEACE, JISHA. And don’t let anyone in this country rest in peace.

Enrage this country, this world. Awaken it from complacency.

Yours,

Shehla

Shehla Rashid is a student at the Centre for Studies in Law & Governance, JNU, an activist with the All India Students Association (AISA), and Vice President of the Jawaharlal Nehru University Students Union.

Biju Abraham is a photographer and filmmaker based in Kozhikode, Kerala

28 thoughts on “Do Not Rest in Peace, Jisha: Shehla Rashid

  1. Mukul Dube

    “How is there such a tremendous uniformity in the actions of your rapists and the words of the Sanghi trolls?” This question is at the heart of the matter.

  2. amit

    Anyone who disagrees with you is termed “RSS”, “Sanghi”, “BJP trolls”, etc. Is that helpful? It just serves to nip a free and open discussion on topics that require a fair analysis and not one sided rhetoric.

    1. Amit, the people who troll Shehla, and many others like her, with horribly sexist, misogynist, violent comments tend, by and large, to come from profiles that openly share their RSS, BJP, Sanghi affiliations. The frank airing of political disagreement, even of an aggressive kind, is always welcome, but why is it that the ‘sharing’ of violent sexual fantasies, and calls for rape and worse, – especially on the Facebook walls and twitter feeds of young women activists, and feminists, tend to be invariably from the men who openly display their allegiance to the Sangh Parivar? Do they have no other language in which to express their political thought, or lack of it ? It makes me think that the RSS should really invest in some long introspection (what do they call it – ‘chintan, manan, manthan’ ) about the fact that it invariably attracts misogynists and rape fantasists to its fold. Perhaps the ‘parivar’ needs to invest in a programme of serious long term therapy for all the Bharat Mata ke Sapoot. But then if it does, it may have to dissolve itself. Therapy may need to a true recognition of the illness that actually, and acutely, plagues the Sangh.

  3. sheena jain

    this reminds me of a poem I wrote in the ’70’s……

    THE ONLY PEACE I KNOW

    The turbulent road
    Leapt into narrow lanes –
    Brows furrowed – thoughts hungry, angry,
    Gnawed the brain…..
    Somewhere, where the sun melted over the fingers brown –
    Where a frenzied thought lay frozen on the palm –
    Where a child’s laughter burnt black holes on the walls –
    A violent blue rose madly, unrestrained –
    There sunrays glinted silver over the waves –
    The little wounds growing pale – flamed red again –
    There I can hear the sound of peace I know –
    The peace that’s always humming in my mind.

    Sheena Jain

  4. You are brainwashing students were they r far from their parents.You r mad. This dry theory ruined my life and character. This is a disease. Consult psychologist. Don’t make children. They will punish you in ur old age. Our country survived 4 centuries. You r ungrateful 2 ur ancestors . You are messiah of destruction. History not made .it happens . U r a fail .find peace in ur family. This not a hate letter . Do yoga it will help ur mind 2 guide you and others 2 like you. Sorry

    1. uthappam

      “This dry theory ruined my life and character.” Men without character are not wanted here. Go away.

  5. Why r u not talking in day light?. I am single not backed by any party.but a brave matured man.Who told u India is run by manusmriti?. Today nobody knows what’s it. Why r u only preaching in campuses?. U R seeking dalits in colleges only. But real poor is living in villages. Preaching not help anybody. How can you give them better life? What’s ur action plan. Ur luckily educated. Start schools in villages. Preaching in top universities about manusmriti what use.give minimum education to masses. Only education and financial power can demolish differences in society.armed revolt will be easily be crushed. Countries hv huge stockpile of arms to kill whole humans in this world for several thousand times. Again i say u r in wrong way. Some one made u coward. Because u r a fool. I am very poor living in a rented house. If anybody rape ur daughter or sister, if u hv not Faith in justice , simply kill him its good than protest. I will do. Because I love humanity. U n’t publish this I know because U not like people’s like me.Because ur coward . U fear death. We not . People need a womb 2 born.like a land 4 live.this is our land .our own land. Not my but our all

    1. Just as I suspected, the IT cell has been busy preparing troll-bots for the next assault. The AI component, I guess, is still not perfected since it was modeled on a mindless teenager speaking SMS-ese. But nice to see the prototype in action. Maybe it slipped up a little, by saying that it will “do kill anybody rape ur daughter or sister” and then slipping in, Because I love humanity.
      V n’t nly n’t prvnt dis 4m publish, but also allowed the humour in it to show up. V do not fear death, on the other hand WE are sensible enough. People need not only a womb 2 born, but also a thinking brain to be articulate, to sum up thoughts coherently. But oh, wait, I am talking to a bot, sigh!

      Early in the bloody morning, bleary-eyed, I have to read this and wonder if I am sane and the world has gone mad or if I have gone mad and the bots have taken over. Nvr mnd bot, crry on, tis nuff dat v gt (what is the bloody sms-ese for ‘unintentional’?) hmr b4 chai, crry on. Tnk U 4 da gd morn (Good grief, I better go back to sleep. This is too catching…)

  6. tu

    What has been done to her is horrible and those who did this should be put to death. I see no reason in bringing in manusmiriti or the recent controversies in this. We should demand that culprits should be punished severely and the legal system should not be influenced by caste or other considerations.

  7. Vishnukant

    A meek facebook protest is all we see

    Why are you not ferociously coming on streets, hogging media, hounding Kerala CM ??

    Oh..it cant be blamed on Modi this time !

    Shame on your intellect !!

  8. Why is the ban on Leslee Udwin’s film ‘India’s Daughter’ still in force? Over a year later?

    That was a ‘temporary’ ban on ‘procedural grounds’, demanded for, by woman activists and lawyers, some of who were on the forefront of the protests in the Dec 2012 outrageous violence against ‘Nirbhaya’ case.
    Protests then, which were sought to be brutally suppressed by a Congress (and CPI-M supported) Govt in the year 2012.

    And in articles such as this one, needless swipes at the BJP and RSS Govt, and dragging in ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai’ dilutes an otherwise very heartfelt and powerful statement the author is making.

    The present incident happened in a non BJP ruled state, a fact which is equally irrelevant.

    1. shikha

      Read shuddhabrata’s response above. Please this is not about the same old tirade about why modi is being targetted and not congress etc – we are tired of this logic. In case you hadnt noticed , this is 2016 not 2012 and the lord ‘ Modi’ who must not be blamed is the prime minister , and BJP is not the opposition. Shehla is talking about a systemic culture of rape and violence which has taken roots in this society and she points out to the clear overlaps between what the bhakts/trolls threaten her with and what happened to JIsha . And she also points out to the absence of the rule of law in this country which allows such cultures of impunity – and yes, the violation of norms, of law and order , of sanghi threats and intimidation and the impunity enjoyed by them under the divisive agendas of this government has become consolidated like never before . Yes, things were never that great and none of us hold a brief for congress, but we would be really blind in modibhakti not to see the larger systemic links that come into place in creating these cultures of violence which are backed by openly idealogically divisive and repressive regimes like the Modi sarkar . It encourages violent and anti social elements and breakdown of law and order by anyone, once you fail to go by the rule book in cases which suit your idealogical vendettas .

  9. K SHESYU BABU

    …. She is a women..patriarchy pounces on her! She is dalit… Caste discrimination pounces on her! She is a student of law…’illegal’ law pounces on her! She is enterprising….jealousy pounces on her! She is brilliant…male chauvinism pounces on her!
    … All pounce on her and kill her
    … Tear her mind and body into shreds and pieces!!
    Krishna says to Arjuna –Karna (a dalit King in duryodhana’s court) was killed six times before Arjuna killed him dubiously!
    Here it is a dalit women!!
    … No words of anger are sufficient…!

  10. Rajesh

    Well written Shehla.
    I had tears rolling down while reading the detailed news and am still in shock. I cant believe something like this happened , hardly an hours drive, from my city Kochi. What a shame, and what a pain. If me a stranger feels so much pain, I dont have any idea how Jisha’s mother and sister can bear these thoughts.

    1. Adopted, at any rate.. so, in that he is right… Karna was a Suta Putra and I suppose that translates to Dalit in some ways. After all, it is a question of immediate identity, isn’t it? No one knew he was really Kunti’s son, and for all practical purposes, the King of Anga was a dalit or someone from a lower caste. I admit that colouring the narrative to suit our modern sensibilities and awareness and calling him Dalit might seem a little too much. But in one sense, it is appropriate since Karna was after all oppressed time and again and denied his rightful place in the pantheon of heroes in the Mahabharata.

      1. Thammudu

        History always gives the place to the rightful heirs..may be a little late..In the hindu pantheon Dana Veera Sura Karna is more famous and many parents pray for a child like that than the rest of pandavas. .

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  13. I had to no internet for a week and half, and once I did, I had to search online and looks for specific blogs to find out what happened to Jisha. A couple of mainstream newspapers have the usual report at the bottom of the page – Culprits have been arrested, Body has been cremated, Forensic experts think it is okay because …well….they collected…evidence already. So I do not know if there was any outrage at all.

    I have no words to describe how I feel on reading this news. I am just sick to stomach. This article is right on target. The BJP/Hindi Mahasabha/JanSangh/RSS or whatever it is they will call themselves in a few years from now when they re-invent themselves, is one of the worst organizations in terms of cultural hegemony, misogyny and stupidity.

    Only one aside – The crime against Nirbhaya was reported widely. Whatever be the reason – perhaps it was Delhi, perhaps it was her caste, perhaps disgust with the previous government’s shenanigans had reached a certain point, media was nearby…who knows.
    There was one more thing that found cursory mention in some newspaper and then disappeared – 1. That she was also punished by those 5 men for being with a different(lower?) caste man 2. Her father also was set against her boyfriend a) because it is wrong to have a boy friend b) because he was of a different caste. I could be wrong but this sub-text was mentioned at some point.

    All women in India suffer because of misogyny, caste bias, lack of police infrastructure and training. But while some sort of safety bubble exists around you if you are a middle class student and professional, even that protection disappears if you are poor, dalit, tribal or whoever it is that Sanghi’s find anti-national.

    With the BJP and its virulent brother/sister organizations firmly in power, I cannot see anything changing. Anything at all.

    1. B B Prakash

      I think the slogan ” beti bachao” sounds as if its coined by a patriarchal mindset . It definitely doesn’t seem to have come from an Indian woman’s thinking . In this context the few men who did this to Jisha and the many men who endorse such incidents are not in the least influenced by these slogans or by the voices trying to connect the violence against women with the entrenched aggressive male attitude in our society. The slogan of course sounds so like Manusmriti… I hope the time is not far when such incidents cease … the women’s version of this slogan in the preventive ( and not the retributive sense ) I presume would be something like ” Bhaaiyyon ko manao- Dadaaon ko samjhao aur Pitaaon ke vichaaaron ko hilaao!”

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