In the abuse of a girl’s dead and brutalized body, and of her family’s helplessness and grief, for political gain and other, less obvious, sorts of effect, what needs to be thought through is the coming together of different kinds of violence, ineptitude and exploitation. A teenage girl from a migrant family living in the outer margins of the city was first assumed to be available for some shared, non-consensual sex followed by abandonment, and then, for a more punishing bout of the same within a couple of days, when she and her father had the gall to report the first incident to the police. Her rapists were arrested, but she and her family, lacking any sort of police protection, continued to be tormented by their neighbours and by friends of the rapists. The family were hounded out and took up lodgings in another suburb of the city. There, too, they were humiliated by the others in the colony, and their landlady served them a notice to vacate her flat. The girl’s mother found her daughter in flames soon after, to realize, just before the girl’s death, that it was not from an attempt to kill herself.
Her alleged rapists have now been charged with murder. But the horror of her death was followed by a protracted nightmare for the family, who realized that they had no control over her body, and had been deprived in every way of even their right to the privacy and dignity of their grief. There ensued a macabre tug-of-war over the physical and symbolic proprietorship of the body — between the Opposition party’s labour wing, on the one hand, and the two police stations dealing with the case, on the other, which turned out to be absurdly uncoordinated with each other. Victimized by a kind of internal racism allegedly from the police and from the neighbours as they moved from place to place, and shamelessly dragged into the self-serving gestures of partisan rivalry and identity politics, the family have been made aware, ever since the first gang-rape, of their profound vulnerability in the face of these multiple forms of exploitation. To these could be added the insensitivities of the visual media (including, regrettably, The Telegraph) in depicting the suffering of the parents. To think, with rigour and scruple, through the different layers of such an appalling situation, and to act promptly and concertedly on these thoughts, is the imperative now for every individual and institution implicated in this web of sexual, social and political violence.