On September 19, she would have appeared for a central government entrance examination. Instead, she now lies on a hospital bed, complaining of pain, drifting in and out of consciousness.
For months, the 19-year-old from a village in Haryana’s Rewari district who was gangraped on September 12 had been preparing for the government job exam. She had also enrolled at a coaching centre some distance away from her village. It was on her way to the coaching class at 7.10 am that she was allegedly abducted by two of the accused. On Sunday, the Haryana Police announced the capture of the two remaining key accused, taking the total arrests to five, and said they may have been involved in other cases of sexual assault earlier. All the accused are known to the family.
The fee at the coaching institute was Rs 5,400, more than the Rs 5,000 the 19-year-old’s father earned working as a teacher in a local school. He made “a few extra thousand”, coaching after school hours (he had even coached one of the key accused).
Says the 19-year-old’s uncle, “Every morning, she would accompany her father in the school bus and get dropped at the bus stop near the coaching centre. Around 2.30 pm, on her way back, she would again take the school bus. She was trying to save on the bus fare.”
Outside the hospital, the girl’s father sits on his haunches under a banyan tree, talking of his daughter’s “dreams”. “She did well in both academics and sports, even represented the state in sporting events,” he says, asking his son, the younger of his two children, to pull out photographs of his daughter’s certificates on the phone.
Pointing to a picture of an invitation card from a Union ministry, he says, “She scored very well in her Class 10 and we were invited to attend a function in Delhi. That was the first time I visited Delhi… While the students were put up in a hotel near Jantar Mantar, there were no arrangements for the parents. I didn’t mind, though. It was a proud moment for us.”
After the felicitation in Delhi, say the villagers elders accompanying the 19-year-old’s father to the hospital, she would often be invited to schools to hoist the national flag on Independence Day. The father smiles and nods.
Once out of school, the 19-year-old enrolled for an undergraduate course but focused on competitive exams. “She didn’t attend college. After her coaching class, she would come home and study. She wanted to get a job and we encouraged her. We never made her do household chores. She understood that we were not well off and wanted to help us,” the father says.
The central government job exam was her shot at that. “My children’s education was my investment. I knew my daughter would excel at whatever she did. But now she has missed her exam and I don’t know how long she will be in hospital… Now there is nothing left,” says the father, burying his face in his hands.
Stepping out of the hospital building for air, her face wrapped in a dupatta, the girl’s mother breaks down talking about her daughter’s suffering. “She keeps sleeping. Sometimes she wakes up scared and mumbles incoherently… She has been getting migraine. The doctors have asked even family members to stay away because they don’t want her to relive the trauma. They say she could slip into coma,” says the mother.
After many days of not eating anything, the 19-year-old had some coconut water, she adds. Hospital authorities refuse to come on record citing court strictures.
On September 12, the day of the assault, the father had as usual seen off the 19-year-old to the bus-stop in the morning. “Around 4.30 pm, I received a call from Manish (a key accused), asking me to fetch my daughter from the bus-stop. When I reached, she was semi-conscious. I brought her home on my bike. I didn’t have enough money for hospital, I had to borrow Rs 10,000,” he says.
The Haryana government later offered Rs 2 lakh as compensation, but the family has rejected it. “I don’t want politicians to visit us or give us money. All I want is the perpetrators of this crime to be hanged,” the mother
Two special police officers are now posted outside the girl’s house. “We will ensure there is no untoward incident,” says one of the officers.
But it may be long before things return to”normal” for girls like them, fears the 19-year-old’s cousin, an undergraduate student who has been at home since the incident. “Several women of the village work in banks and police, earn for themselves. My cousin and I wanted to do the same… She was a role model for me. Since the incident, I have been stopped from attending college and coaching. It’s the same for most girls in the village.”