The two girls in Badaun who were raped and killed had left home to go to the fields to relieve themselves. Every time they step out, say the women of the village, it is with the fear of being teased, the shame of being seen, and the discomfort of counting hours. Pritha Chatterjee reports. Photographs by Praveen Khanna.
Sixteen-year-old Sridevi can spell her name as well as write three-word sentences in English. She manages the accounts of a small shop run by her family that sells glass bangles, bindis, lipsticks and small knick-knacks. When her father Bhajan Singh needs help with his Nokia mobile phone, he turns to her, to save numbers or to explain messages advertising schemes from his mobile operator. The Class VI student at Katra Sadatganj village’s only private school also helps her mother out in the tailoring work that she does. The mother and daughter take turns at the sewing machine to stitch blouses and salwar-kameez on order, as the other wields a hand fan in a futile bid to beat the oppressive summer heat.
Bhajan Singh is proud of his “padhne wali beti”, and makes her write English sentences to show to everyone who drops in at their house this sultry afternoon. “She works only during school holidays, like the ongoing summer break, or after school hours,” he makes it clear, adding that he would never compromise on her studies.
IN PICTURES: Going to toilet in Badaun’s Katra Sadatgan
Sridevi listens to her father, edgy and sweaty, catching quick glances outside. She loves her school and her father for it, but right now, studies are far from her mind. It’s still about five hours to sunset, she makes a mental calculation.
Around 3 pm onwards, Sridevi can bear it no longer, peeping out every 15 minutes to see if the streets are deserted. People usually take a mid-day nap at this time in her village, but these aren’t usual days. For the past week, VIPs, mediapersons and complainants from neighbouring villages have been pouring into Katra Sadatganj, the village in Badaun district nearest to the Ganga. The streets and fields around her house, just about 20 metres from the home of her two deceased cousins who were raped and found hanging on May 27, are crawling with them.
Sridevi returns disappointed every time. She has never seen so many people in her village, she complains. “Do it in the continued…