Jisha: Don’t put her in another box

Priyadarshini Mattoo, Jessica Lal, Jisha, Kerala, India, rape, murder, Nirbhaya

There are lessons for all of us in the gruesome murder of a pretty, bright and feisty Jisha, a 28-year young student of law from Kerala adored by her mother so much that she has never stopped crying ever since she was snatched from her.

Did you miss something in her introduction?

Perhaps her caste, which is her first introduction as far as most Indian publications go. The fact that her caste has been put forward more than her status as a young law student and an intelligent girl shows the way we, or at least the media, still thinks; play it, always, on the caste lines.

And it is due to these publications, which have put her caste identity over her intellectual identity, which reveals a sorry way Indian media reports crimes against women. Prism of caste clouds everything. In the case of Nirbhaya, her caste was made immaterial. Delhi came out on streets fighting for ‘India’s’ daughter with none knowing which caste she belonged to, till very late. She also wasn’t merely ‘Delhi’s daughter either but India’s daughter and fighting to get her justice became the holy duty of all classes and castes.

The most that the people knew were that Nirbhaya was a bright girl of 23, a budding physiotherapist, much like Jisha, and who wanted to help her family financially. Jisha too harboured same dreams, yet, all that the media could see was her caste.

It was almost that everything else was unimportant. Priyadarshini Mattoo too was a law student and who was also savagely murdered post a violent rape by Santosh Singh yet no one wrote about her caste. Her case, much like Nirbhaya, got everyone’s attention and through street activism she and later another India’s daughter Jessica Lal both got justice.

Many will blame the national media; that it did not give Jisha the same coverage as Nirbhaya or Jessica or Priyadarshini.

But the question is that whether the local media itself bothered to paint Jisha above the caste and regional lines, that it has carefully selected for certain rape victims.

In India, the worst atrocity that can happen to a woman is having her life being put into boxes; box of her gender, box of her religion, or box of her monetary status but never as a human being who may be wanting to get freedom from these very boxes.

For Jisha media chose one more box; that of caste and this could be what she may have wanted to fight against had she survived the brutal attack. As the case draws to a close, we can only hope that the society at large learns to respect its daughters without worrying about her class, religion or caste. Is that even possible?