A tenth standard schoolgirl, Dika Kumari, was abused by her teachers and her voice of dissent was silenced by painful rape and murder. It is time that we raised our voices and demand justice for her. Radhika Menon writes about why Dika Kumari should matter to us and why she must not be defeated.
Early this year, a 15 year old girl from a Mahadalit background, determined to study and chart her way through education, was raped and murdered. Her brutalized, bloodied body was later found near a drain outside her school (Ambedkar Government Girls High School at Dighi Mazirabad in Vaishali district of Bihar). The injuries indicating a death as violent as Nirbhaya’s.
Dika Kumari, represents hundreds of girls who attend state residential schools and hostels, in the promise of a hope that they will one day escape the tyranny of caste and gender indictment. They are brave girls who stand up for themselves trying to re-craft their future with education. As teachers we know the courage and persistence that first generation learners need to exhibit to hold on amidst a hostile set of conditions to continue learning. Instead of aiding these girls to accomplish their rights as citizens of the country, it is as if the state has now begun to collude with feudal forces to keep girls like Dika from studying. The conditions of these hostels have been abysmal, and that was also the case of her hostel. There was no water facilities, girls had to go and fetch water from outside, and tunnels were dug into their school campus through which abusers came in to harass them. She protested and complained, according to her mother’s statement, and she was killed thereafter.
Why is there no safe learning environment assured for mahadalit, dalit and tribal girls in our country? There have been cases from across the country on the vulnerability of these girls to exploitation, be it Buldahana, Beed, Damaracherla or Warangal. This demands a serious investigation on what is the status of these institutions and strong measures to ensure a secure environment for learning .
Dika spent ten years of her life in that hell hole of a hostel, in the hope for change. In her death, she possibly didn’t go down easily either. Her grievous injuries holding up a mirror to the terrible misogynistic feudal society and a monumental state neglect. It will only be by breaking the stony silence that we can hope that young spirited girls like Dika can realize their hopes. There must be #JusticeForDika