Two years after the 18-year-old CBSE topper was raped in Haryana’s Rewari, the victim lives in fear as four of the eight accused are out on bail and have threatened to attack the family. Even though the matter has been in a fast track court, the case has been moving at a sluggish pace for the last two years.
“I live with the fear that someone will come knocking on our door and end everything. They still send threats that four of us are out on bail, the remaining four will also be out soon. They have threatened to kill my family,” the rape survivor in Haryana’s Rewari District said.
The 18-year-old victim was a CBSE topper was on her way to her coaching institute, when she was abducted and raped. The case had made nationwide headlines because this girl was a CBSE topper and like an icon for Haryana’s Beti Bachao Beti Padhao campaign. She was once felicitated by the prime minister himself and she was a state level Kabbadi Champion.
“There was a time when my life was all about studies and my only concern was to excel in examinations. My every waking thought used to be about school homework and championships. But that was before the gangrape”, the girl said.
Now, fear governs her life. Every knock on the door, every untimely phone call, every unknown person passing by her house sends a chill down her spine. “I did not get even one good night’s sleep in over two years. The nightmares don’t stop more so, when I am told that some of the perpetrators are out,” she adds as the trauma is something she’s learning to live with.
The case was transferred to a fastrack court. A policeman comes from time to time to ensure nothing happens again. The girl had struggled in the ICU for 18 days after the horrific incident. Politicians had made a beeline to this tiny house in Nayagaon where tall promises of justice were made.
“At that time, everyone seemed to care about me. But like all the other girls, I am long forgotten,” the rape survivor said.
Two years later, no one ever calls let alone visits them. A promise of a government job remains unfulfilled. 4 of the 8 men accused in the case are now out on bail, one recently in August this year. There is one court appointed police guard stationed here. This, after she was threatened several times. She tells us that the threats never really stopped.
“They still send threats through others. I was told that 4 of us have been given bail, others will also be out soon. They tell me to take the case back or they will shoot down my family,” she said.
The victim’s mother tells us that the lockdown has been difficult. They feel isolated in the village which is also home to 5 families of those accused in the case. She adds that in August, one of accused threatened the milkman and the vegetable seller to stop supply to their house. For days, they struggled.
“They stopped the supply of milk and vegetables to our house. We are one, they are many. We feel scared and isolated. My daughter did nothing wrong and still she is the one who has to struggle like this,” the survivor’s mother said.
“I want her to have a better life, she deserves it. We request the Haryana govt to shift us to a safer location. Where my daughter can go out without fear, where she can study without any stress,” the mother adds.
The story is similar to most of the rape survivors in the country. Their ordeal continues even after the crime. Expert says that threats and pressure to take back the case is something that almost every survivor faces.
“One in every three rape survivors face serious threats to drop the case. I’ve been with this family since the beginning, they’ve truly struggled. The villagers side with the accused. They’re constantly threatened and pressurised,” said Yogita Bhayana, Women Rights Activist.
Local Police denies having knowledge of the milk supply episode but admits that the family had informed them about the recent threat. The Police Chowki in-charge Pramod Kumar visited the accused family and felt it was a ‘misunderstanding’. He assures us that regular checks are conducted for the family’s protection.
“The family called me saying that after the latest bail, they were told by someone that 4 have come out, and the remaining 4 will also come out and see them. I went there and checked; it seems it was a miscommunication. We keep a close vigil of that house. Every day I send someone to check on them at least once. They’re safe,” said Pramod Kumar, Sub-Inspector.
Despite being a watertight case in a fast track court, it is nowhere close to a decision. The court hearings slowed down during the lockdown and the judge has been changed multiple times.
“Prima facie all evidence including the medical samples, witness testimonies corroborate reh survivor’s statement. This is an open and shut case. But despite that, there’s been no real update in the case even though it’s in a fast track court,” said Chetan Singh, advocate.
In the village, the panchayat denies any threat perception to the family. One of the Panchayat members described the crime as a ‘mistake by young boys who didn’t know any better.’
“That family has nothing to fear, no safety issue. As far as the rape is concerned, the boys did it in their youthful ignorance. They did it in their youthful ignorance. They didn’t know it was wrong. It was a mistake,” said Ramohat, Panchayat Member.
This kind of societal mindset which sympathises with the accused rather than the victim is stark here. Conversations with other villagers leaves us even more disturbed. From the very young to the elderly, villagers here feel the rape survivor was at fault for what happened with her.
Two young school girls we spoke to also feel that rapes happen because girls ‘entice’ boys towards them. It points to an unsettling and deep conditioning that makes even young girls blame the victim. “The girl must have also been at fault. It’s her mistake. Girls should not make such a mistake and lead on the boys. Even in our village, she may have enticed them and so they did this to her,” said one of the girls.
Another villager, a 30-year-old man, feels that in any rape case, ‘both parties’ are at fault. “Both the girl and the men are at fault. What is rape? It is an act that happens between two sides. Why should only the men be blamed for it?”, he asked.
The success of ‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao’ comes under question when we meet men like this 50-year-old in Nayagaon village. The fact that the rape survivor was a bright student who was being supported by her family to seek an education even beyond the confines of her village is something that is being blamed instead of being celebrated here.
“You can’t clap with one hand. The less spoken about such cases, the better. Why would those boys do such a thing if they didn’t feel it is okay to do it with her. She used to study, used to go coaching. Why did her parents send her to the neighbouring village to study. Such things happen. Such girls are fast,” said a villager in his 50s.
The survivor dreams of becoming a police officer. She’s studying to clear the entrance exams. The family demands to be relocated. They want to leave the dark episode behind and to start afresh.
“I was once so proud that my daughter has been awarded by the prime minister. I was a firm believer of Beti Bachao Beti padhao. Now the same daughter has had to go through hell. And even after all this, no one stands with us. She’s taunted, blamed, insulted. But I feel daunted. I will continue to stand by her dreams,” said the survivor’s mother.
This young bright girl continues to fight for justice, she refuses to let that incident define her. If there’s anyone who deserves for her dream to come true, it is her.