“If I die, nobody will call me a prostitute anymore.” In a suicide note speaking of loss of faith in the judicial process, the “rape victim” who killed herself in Bhilai on Thursday left behind this wish.
The 21-year-old was found hanging from a ceiling fan when police arrived to issue court summons for the next hearing on February 2. “Whenever I go to court on the date I am called, the judge is not present in court,” she wrote at another place.
The letter, in Hindi, was discovered by police inside a notebook, written by her after nearly a year of the case being tried in court.
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For six months, she had kept the alleged assault by a doctor and two police constables hidden from her family, worried about their “izzat (honour)”. Her father retired as the guard of an engineering college in Nagpur, and she was the fourth of seven children. The family lives in a two-room house.
She had gone to Lal Bahadur Shastri Hospital in Bhilai in June 2014 for some treatment on her face when she was “raped”, allegedly first by the doctor and then the two constables posted there.
“The doctor, Gautam Pandit, told her she had jaundice and kept her at the hospital for three days. He drugged her, and with constables Saurabh Bhakta and Chandra Prakash Pandey, raped her. Then for over six months, they threatened her, saying they had made a video, and even took money from her on two occasions,” says her brother.
In January 2015 she finally told her family, and the three were arrested within a day.
According to the brother, police were reluctant to file an FIR. “They hit her at the time saying she was lying, but eventually the three were arrested. Since then, both my sister and I would get threatening calls, asking us to compromise or withdraw the case. They even came to our house. Sometimes she even got calls from within the jail premises. There was constant harassment. After the matter came to light, people would call her names. It was just too much for her to handle,” he says.
The father claims prosecution lawyers threatened that they would drag her family’s name into the matter. “She never reported this because she told her lawyer everything. We fear her lawyer too did not want to fight for her, and instead told her to give up the case.”
In her suicide note, the girl says her lawyer, Kalpana Deshmukh, told her there was little hope of her getting justice, and that she would be made to run around in court. All of Thursday, Deshmukh remained unavailable, with her phone switched off.
In her suicide letter, the girl goes on to seek the forgiveness of her parents. “Please mummy, papa forgive me. Nor will I get justice anymore, nor will I be able to move forward in life.”
The father claims that while they had attended all the five hearings that been held so far, it was also shown in court records that they had missed them.
Still, the family never expected the girl to take this extreme step. “She was studying B.Sc, and just three days ago, told my mother she wanted to finish it, take a law degree and become a judge, because she didn’t want what was happening to her to occur to someone else,” says the brother.
Police have taken phones of both him and the victim to examine the charges of threats. “We will reach a conclusion in the matter. If any further complaint is received, action will be taken on that as well. Everyone that has been named will be questioned, including the lawyers,” Rajesh Agarwal, ASP, Bhilai, said.
Under attack from the Congress, Chief Minister Raman Singh told reporters on Friday that it was likely “something emotional was going on in the victim’s mind”. “All the accused have been arrested and the case is going on in court,” he said.