M A I N   N E W S

She lost self-esteem, her father and all hope for justice
Geetanjali Gayatri/TNS

Hisar, October 30
The by-lanes of Dabra, the village she grew up in, her warm welcoming home with memories stashed away in its every corner, the friends she loved to spend her evenings with by the village pond, her carefree life, her ringing laughter, the happy times-Shilpa (name changed), today, pines for all this and more.

To her, these no longer seem to be a page out of her life anymore. Not since September 9, 2012 — the day she was kidnapped, gang-raped and filmed by a group of youths while on her way to a relative’s place, on the outskirts of Hisar.

The case file
Shilpa (name changed) was kidnapped, gang-raped and filmed by some youths on the outskirts of Hisar on September 9 last year
The upper-caste accused used to pressure her and her family not to complain against them or they would make the MMS public
Unable to bear the ignominy, her father committed suicide by consuming poison
In May 2013, the trial court acquitted six of the 10 accused
The district administration sent a recommendation to the Haryana AG’s office to file an appeal in the high court, but there has been no action on the recommendation so far

The family’s misfortunes have been on an upward spiral since then.

Allegedly pressured against involving the community by threatening to make her rape-video public, her Dalit father committed suicide soon after. His last rites done, the family left the village for good.

Today, residing in a two-room government accommodation under police cover, Shilpa’s only companion is her loneliness. Everything she treasured has been left behind. The May 2013 trial court verdict acquitting six of the 10 “guilty” added insult to injury, she says, as the perpetrators of the crime, from upper castes, stood absolved. This, she asserts, is not her defeat alone but also that of the system struggling to deliver justice when pitted against the influential.

Her lawyer Ram Bahadur Khowal says, “Despite sufficient and substantive evidence, the court, strangely, observed that the girl, while she was being raped, was puzzled and could not properly count the accused. Only those initially named in the police case have been held guilty while the ‘others’ named later, have been allowed to go scot-free. We have privately appealed against their acquittal since the Haryana AG office is sitting over the recommendation of the district administration to file an appeal.” Traumatised with the turn of events, Shilpa maintains, “Their acquittal came as a rude shock.

I had stopped living the day they ‘killed’ my father. Now, the horrific memories of that day crowd around me, mocking at my helplessness. Every court date disturbs me mentally and I can’t overcome my fear.”

Recalling the ordeal, Shilpa claims being gang-raped was only the beginning of the nightmare. “I was very scared and ashamed of mentioning about it at home. The next day, the accused were waiting near my school. They asked me to accompany them or they would make my video public. Petrified, I ran home and asked my mother to move me to my grandparents’ house in Hisar, citing the ongoing exams,” she recounts.

Unable to deal with the pressure and with guilt weighing heavily on her mind, she refused to eat food, raising the family’s suspicion. “I couldn’t take the pressure and finally told my family about the rape, holding back the bit about the MMS. My father said we would file a police case. While we were on our way, the boys threatened us with dire consequences. The fear factor got the better of us and we came back to my grandparents. My father asked me to stay put there, while he went seeking help. He never came back,” she says.

Some villagers showed him the “rape” clip. Humiliated, he made his way to the house and consumed poison. “I heard they took him to hospital, but he died. I lost my honour, I lost my father, I lost my home, I lost the case, too,” she holds.

Accompanied everywhere by a policeman in plainclothes, Shilpa is glad that her past hasn’t caught up with her present yet. “Nobody knows about my past in the college, but the rape has shaken my faith in God. I don’t pray anymore. He isn’t standing by us as we suffer the ignominy thrust upon us,” she says.

Her brother, an ITI dropout, left his course midway following “threatening vibes” from a handful of boys. He said: “The accused are an influential lot with connections that go far enough to scuttle the appeal. We smell something fishy in the AG office’s delaying tactics on the appeal. We are poor and that is why we are going unheard despite our tragedy.”

Their mother, employed as a daily-wage earner with the administration, rues the fateful day her daughter went visiting relatives. “That visit triggered the unimaginable for us. One year on and we are still struggling to come to terms with all the losses and infamy that were heaped at our doorstep as our life came apart. Our lives are over, but this stigma is there for ever,” she says, as dusk approaches and the lights come on.

They can only hope this too shall pass and they will find light at the end of this dark tunnel, someday.





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