In Badaun,western Uttar Pradesh,the mother of the gangrape convict who had been a juvenile at the time of the crime lies bedridden,diagnosed with suspected tuberculosis,barely able to talk. Two of her children,aged eight and six,are away at the local government school,the same one where the convict had once been enrolled. Villagers admit that the free midday meal provided at the school is the main draw. Apart from the taint of the gangrape they carry,the family that lives in that hut with a torn plastic sheet for roof is also known to be the villages poorest.
The convicts father is mentally ill,and the earnings of two of his sisters,12 and 14,who work as labourers in the village,sustain the rest of his family. The mother says she hasnt met her son since he was convicted,and is waiting for him to return home after completing his three-year sentence,at a shelter home in North Delhi. I cannot stand up. Nor do I have the money to go to Delhi. If the officials are saying I met him,they are lying. Do we look like we can meet the expense? she asks.
At R K Purams Ravi Dass camp,where four of the other gangrape convicts lived,life has gone back to what it was before the notoriety of a year ago brought the entire world to their doorsteps. Some months ago,the residents of the slum collected money and got their houses painted,changing the colour of the walls. The families of the convicts no longer live here.
Ram Singhs two-room house has been taken over by his relatives. He and his brother were both convicted of the rape. Earlier this year,Ram Singh died in prison,apparently of a suicide. Neighbourhood children talk of Ram Singhs ghost haunting the house,as the others laugh this off. Singhs distant cousin Madhav,who now lives in the house with his wife,refuses to talk about the case. Wife Seema says we should come later as Madhav is drunk.
Ram Singh gaya,ab dusra bhi waisa hi darubaaz aa gaya jo jhagda karta hai (Ram Singh is gone,but the next one is no different. He too gets drunk and picks up fights), says a neighbour.
The family of convict Pawan Kumar Gupta has moved from their house located nearby to some other slum not too far away. Neighbours say they dont know their new address,adding that they left early morning the day after Pawan was sentenced to death. Some months ago,Pawans younger sister who was suffering from a chronic illness also passed away. Pawans father Hira Lal continues to run a juice shop in the area but doesnt talk to the neighbours any more.
Father of convict Vinay Sharma insists his son is innocent. What about Asaram? What about Tejpal? says Hari Ram. There was a rape in R K Puram some months ago. Were all the accused hanged in those cases? Why only our sons?
Hari Ram,who sends money to his son in Tihar,recently underwent a small operation and has been advised bed rest.
His wife Champa Devi talks about how they continue to be a media spectacle. We were approached by a TV channels woman reporter for a show about the gangrape. We refused to give our interview. Some weeks ago,when I met Vinay in jail,he asked me about his fathers operation. I was surprised because I hadnt told him. He told me that the TV channel had talked to him claiming they had paid for the operation, Champa says.
The Badaun accuseds mother counts on the return of her boy who left home for work at the age of 11,and that he will take charge of the family that she can no longer pull along. He must have read about our suffering in the newspapers, she says. I hope they do not hang him,for our sake.