Updated: December 21, 2015 1:05:27 pm
This was no ordinary Sunday, not in this village in Badaun district of Uttar Pradesh. Waking up to a steady stream of media personnel and OB vans, almost everyone here knew that one who used to be among them many years ago — the youngest convict in the December 16 gangrape case — was due to be released sometime during the day.
Those in the village who seemed unaware of the raging debate — on whether or not the juvenile convict should be released — jumped in as well. Some said they were embarrassed that the fair name of their village had been permanently tarnished by that gruesome crime in Delhi three years ago. Others felt his family had suffered enough and should be left alone.
“We didn’t know anything about his release. Some media personnel informed us. It was a very shameful incident, he has given the village a bad name… people from across the country now know our village as the home of one of the December 16 rapists. He was sentenced to three years in a correction home, but he deserves more for the brutal gangrape,” one of the residents said.
Earlier reports had claimed that the juvenile, after completing his sentence in a correction home, would return to the village he had run away from 12 years ago. Seventeen years old when he and five other men tortured and raped a 23-year-old woman on board a moving bus, he is 20 now.
With no confirmation on where he was headed from the correction home, media personnel made a beeline to the village, thinking he may show up there. As they waited — many positioned their cameras outside the small, bare-bones house of the family — children flocked around parked media vehicles while elders used it as a backdrop for selfies.
A former pradhan couldn’t help observe that the atmosphere was one of a fair or carnival. This village, he said, had never seen so many shining cars in its narrow lanes.
“That incident three years ago changed everything. Even the international media has covered this place. It is like a carnival for the children here, they don’t know what it’s all about. For us, it is embarrassing that this village is being linked to him and what he did.”
Inside the home of the juvenile, his mother lay on a cot, her five-year-old son by her side. She looked very unwell, and weary of answering questions from the media, often the same ones. The most common: When will your son return?
“I don’t know where he is or when he will return, if at all he does. I don’t even know what he looks like now. We haven’t been told anything about him by the police or court. I am very ill… I had hoped that once he comes back, he will help in getting his two sisters married. But I don’t even expect that anymore,” she said.
One of her daughters has had enough of journalists. “My mother has not been able to sit up in two days. Every other minute, someone comes inside our house with a microphone and starts asking a hundred questions. We have had enough… I just want everyone to leave us alone,” she said.
Worried about the mother’s health, a neighbour said, “This family is very poor and she keeps falling ill… they should not be made to suffer for his deeds.” And what happens if the juvenile does show up here? “Nobody knows what will happen to him,” the neighbour said.
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