SUZETTE JORDAN’S grave at the sprawling Bhowanipore cemetery in central Kolkata is easy to locate. It’s at one quiet corner of one of India’s oldest cemeteries, bordered by a thicket of bushes. “My mother would have liked that. She never believed in hiding,” smiles Rhea Jordan (19), daughter of Suzette, a social activist and the survivor of the infamous 2012 Park Street gangrape case.
On Thursday, a city court convicted all five accused in the case. The court will announce the quantum of punishment for the three behind bars — Nasir Khan, Sumit Bajaj and Ruman Khan — on Friday. The rest — Kadir Khan and Mohammad Ali — are absconding.
As an early dusk settles over the Kolkata skyline, Suzette’s immediate family — mother Karen Jordan, father Peter Jordan, paternal grandmother Matilda Jordan, brother Peter Jordan Jr, sister Nicqui Jordan and daughters Rhea and Jade — gather around her grave, exchanging smiles and hugs. It’s an intensely private family moment, but there are curious onlookers.
“We are used to this. They are here because of the TV cameras,” said Jade (17). The family is here to celebrate the verdict and will not let anything spoil the moment. “People had questioned her integrity, they had pointed fingers at her. I have seen my daughter and my family go through a lot. Today, we will celebrate,” said Peter Jordan.
After Suzette succumbed to meningoencephalitis in a Kolkata hospital in March this year, the onus of continuing with the fight for justice fell on the Jordan family. “Suzette’s two girls have been very brave,” said mother Karen.
Though two of the main accused are absconding, Suzette’s father doesn’t believe that this is justice half-served. “They are powerful people, who have a lot of money. They are hopping from one country to another. I believe the Kolkata Police has tried its best,” said Peter.
Suzette’s grandmother, Matilda, believes somebody was tipping them off. “Whenever we learn they are in this particular country, they move,” he said.
Suzette, who was always afraid for her two daughters and had mentioned in interviews to the media how she felt they were in mortal danger too, tried her best to keep Rhea and Jade away from public glare. “She was worried about us, but we have to lead our lives. We are already doing part-time jobs. How could we keep hiding? Today, maybe she will be little relieved,” said Rhea.
Had Suzette been alive, there would have been a big party at the Jordan residence in Behala. “It would have been a potluck, everybody would have cooked something or the other,” said Karen. Yet, the Jordans aren’t reckless in their expression of happiness. “I feel bad for the three boys, they are so young. Already, they have spent three years behind bars. Suzette didn’t really want revenge, she wanted justice,” said Matilda.
Indeed, Suzette, who repeatedly expressed her hate for the tag of “Park Street rape survivor”, tried her best to rise above the incident that eclipsed her life. She was a social activist who worked with women’s and LGBTQ issues. In her media interactions, she refrained from demonising her rapists. “I have been wronged by the state and it can make up for it by delivering justice,” she had told The Indian Express in an interview in 2013.
Today, Suzette Jordan has been righted.