She is a striking woman, tall and thin, dressed in a sari, a handbag in one hand and a large phone in the other. A few pages away is the sketch of a younger girl, her unbrushed hair bunched around her face, tears running down her cheeks.
The 14-year-old keeps the notebook with the sketches next to her, as well as the handful of broken crayons her mother once gifted that she uses to fill those drawings with. She concentrates on faces, happy ones, sad ones, those heavily made up and, sometimes, women in designer wear.
She is not sure where she has picked up ideas for those faces from. “Maybe from TV serials, or maybe from women who have come visiting me over the last three years,” she says quietly.
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Acquaintances of any other kind have been rare.
Three years and 22 corrective surgeries after she was gangraped in Sikar by two men, a permanent night shelter 2 km away from the spot of the incident remains the 14-year-old’s world.
The trial, with over 35 witnesses, some of whom have turned hostile, is still on. Two of the prime accused — Suresh Jat and Ramesh Sharma — are in jail while four other accomplices charged with helping them flee after committing the crime are out on bail. And so, the 14-year-old has no option but to spend her time in wait in a room at the shelter, with a single bed, a mattress on the floor, a cooler, a TV set and a corner table serving as kitchen.
After the victim’s mother complained to the local police that she feared for her and her daughter’s life, two constables have been deployed to keep guard. The mother and her elder sibling are encouraged to find work and live a normal life.
“I want to go out too. Walk free,” protests the girl. “Ever since we came back from Delhi about a year back, I have not gone out all by myself.”
The girl was picked up and gangraped on an Eid day in 2012, while returning from a movie with a neighbour. Originally from Darbhanga, the girl, the youngest of six sisters and a brother, had come to Sikar in Rajasthan to live with her married sibling.
Two youths had dragged her into their jeep and raped her allegedly through the night, dumping her by the roadside the next morning. Left with serious injuries to her private parts, she spent the next two years in hospitals in Jaipur and later AIIMS, New Delhi, undergoing surgeries, including minor and major vaginal reconstructive surgeries. Doctors had to create an artificial passage through her stomach for stool to pass.
She requires no more surgeries now, and her physical wounds have almost healed. “It hurts when I sit on the floor or squat but otherwise it is much better,” she smiles. “Now I just want to get back home to Bihar, live among familiar faces. Not like this, caged in a building.”
“The one thing that has kept us going is the attention and support we have got from so many, the activists, the media, politicians,” says her mother. “Can you tell CM Vasundhara (Raje) we need some money?” she adds. “No one gives us work because we are embroiled in a court case and they think they too will get dragged into it.”
The district administration has offered to enrol the victim in a local residential girls’ school, but the mother is not sure about it. “The school has 14 girls. It is safe and it might help keep her engaged, but the mother has been adamant,” says Sikar District Collector L N Soni.
In the court, the matter has got complicated with witnesses turning hostile. “To add to that, she could not identify the accused correctly during the identification parade,” says Sukhdev Maila, the girl’s lawyer.
However, Maila remains confident of “nailing the culprits”. “Right at the outset police found some very strong evidence against the accused,” he says.
Sikar SP Dr Ravi also points out that the accused were caught soon after the incident and that they had filed “a watertight chargesheet”. “We are hopeful of a favourable judgment. As of now we are trying our best to ensure the victim’s safety.”
Adds Maila, “The next hearing is slated for May 29 to 31 when the victim and her sibling will depose in court. If she is strong and sticks to her statement, it should not be difficult.”
The victim though wonders. “Every time I was wheeled out to the operation theatre I would count the number of surgeries done till then. Now I count the number of days to the next hearing,” she says.
Numbers are the one thing she remembers, the Class II dropout adds, having forgotten the Hindi, English alphabets she once studied in school. “I know all till 100. That is useful in counting — money, days, time.”