December 4, 2016 2:04:17 am
“Din raat bas dimaag mein wahi chalta rehta hai, har waqt dar lagta rehta hai (I keep thinking about it all day, I feel scared all the time).”
Married at the age of 15, and a mother by the time she was 18, she has rarely questioned decisions taken by others for her, she says.
Not this time. Gangraped on the intervening night of August 24-25 along with her 14-year-old cousin by four men in Dingerheri village in Haryana’s Mewat district, she asserts, her face blank, “Main bhi ladoongi aur mere pati bhi lad rahe hain… Un sabko phansi ki saza honi chahiye (I will fight and my husband is fighting too. I want the perpetrators to be hanged).”
Since the incident, the 19-year-old has moved to her uncle’s home, along with her mother. “My parents-in-law haven’t talked to me since that night. I can’t go to my village either, as there is all kind of talk. So I have come here,” she says.
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It’s a semi-constructed two-storey home, with a few buffaloes tied to a pole in the courtyard. Fiddling with the ends of the dupatta covering her head, she says what keeps her going is the occasional visit to the market nearby. “Baaki bas zindagi chal rahi hai (Life goes on, that’s it).”
Her husband now shuttles between the house she stays in and his parents’ home in Hatim village. The 25-year-old says the rape shattered all that they had planned. Earlier, while she lived in Hatim, he worked in Gurgaon, 50 km away, and visited on weekends. The job of a call centre driver earned him Rs 15,000 a month. He had to give it up after the rape as he was busy making rounds of the court and police station.
While he claims to be determined to stand by his wife in this “battle”, he adds, “I am desperate to get back to a normal life. Everything has changed. We remain confined to Nuh on most days. We are trying to forget the incident, but it is tough. We have stopped discussing it at home. We have also run out of money, so I need to get a job soon. We need to get a place for ourselves too.”
He hopes justice will come soon. “Bas un chaaron ko phansi lag jaaye (I am just waiting for the four accused to be hanged)….”
The only girl among her parents’ four children, the 19-year-old was visiting her maternal home in Dingerheri when the assault happened. Her eyes fixed firmly on the ground, she says, “That night, 11 of us were sleeping in a clearing near the field, while my son and I, a cousin and three other children were sleeping in the outhouse. Around 11.45 pm, we heard a scream. Soon eight men barged into the outhouse and began assaulting us.”
Police have arrested only four men, but the victim says there were four others.
“They asked us for money and jewellery, payal, kada sab de diya (We gave them our anklets, bangles everything). Then they threw down a copy of the Quran we had in the room. We pleaded, told them it was our holy book, but they said they didn’t care. Then one of them said, ‘Tum gau maas khate ho, tumhe toh kabrastaan pahunchayenge (You all eat cow meat, we will put you in the grave)’,” she says.
Her family has alleged that the two members of the family murdered that night were also killed by the rapists.
The family insists the attack was a “premeditated hate crime”. “There were more than four attackers that night and they had with them iron rods and sticks. It was definitely pre-planned, they wanted to humiliate us,” says Zohruddin, 68, the victims’ maternal grandfather.
The claim that the assaulters were “cow vigilantes” was also made by the rape victims at a press conference in the Capital, though the police chargesheet says it was a case of robbery and murder.
The incident triggered a fight between Dingerheri village and the village of the four accused, Mohammadpur Ahir. There have been several mahapanchayats in both villages since the incident. Families of the accused, Amarjeet (24), Sandeep (26), Rahul Verma (22) and Karamjeet (24), claim they had “close ties” with the victims’ family and are surprised the girls named the four.
The 19-year-old wonders now if life would have been better had she studied. “I never went to school. I worked in the fields and at home and, before I knew it, I was married. There too, I just worked all day in the house and then we had a baby,” she says.
Soon after, her husband nudges her to go inside; no words are exchanged as she gets up and leaves. Looking at all the relatives who have crowded around where they are sitting, in a house with over 10 people and few private spaces, he says talking is difficult.
“Itne logon ke saamne statement dena padta hai (She has to recall the incident before so many people).”
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