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For four months, she couldn’t leave the house. The only time neighbours would catch a glimpse of the 16-year-old domestic help from Jharkhand was when she would come to the balcony to dry clothes. Each day, she looked more frail. Then, on Friday, she emerged with burn marks, bruises and swollen eyes. That was the first time they spoke to her — in sign language.
“The maids often sit in the local park and discuss employers, but she never left the house. We suspected she was treated badly; her waist was shrinking by the day. But we couldn’t imagine she was being treated like an animal,” said Anita, a domestic help who claims to have worked in the same household in the past. The Delhi Commission for Women (DCW) claimed that the girl would be starved for days. Most recently, she was fed two stale pieces of bread.
“Her condition is indescribable, she was reduced to bones. She was not even provided blankets or a sweater at night,” said DCW chairperson Swati Maliwal. The alleged torture largely flew under the radar, though. “When she came out of the house, she could barely speak. She started pointing towards her back and hands… that was enough for us to realise what had happened,” said a neighbour.
Residents claimed they never spoke to the accused because of “frequent confrontations over trivial issues”. The only time neighbours interacted with the accused, Nidhi Chaudhary, was at the time of monthly bill submissions, which she used to collect. Domestic helps who earlier worked at the house described her as “soft spoken”, but someone who “occasionally paid less than what was promised”. Many of them worked there for a month or two, and then quit. “I worked there for 10 days. We had a fight over money, so I quit,” said Pinky, a domestic help.