She was just 11 when she was gang-raped near a Ramlila venue. While the accused have been put behind bars, the family faces social ostracism and constant threat to life. The survivor’s hopes of completing her education have been dashed. The family says it feels cheated
Rasoolabad (Kanpur rural)
The family of Kiran (name changed) still shudders recollecting the last night of 2015 and it continues to suffer even after four years since that night.
“I don’t like to talk about her ordeal, but if you must know, her eyes, mouth and thighs were badly scratched and bleeding profusely. She had to be operated upon to stop the bleeding and was unconscious for many days. We thank god that she survived. Her private parts are yet to heal properly and she is still on medication for that,” said the distraught mother of the 15-year-old.
“Ever since this incident, we have been shunned by society. Women coming across me or my child look the other way. Feeling dejected, my child has stopped stepping out altogether; we, too, don’t leave our house much. Meanwhile, the accused continue to hurl abuses and frequently threaten us in an inebriated state,” she said.
Kiran was brutally raped and abandoned in a critical state when she was just 11. It was only after a four-year struggle that the survivor’s father could manage to send the accused behind bars for 20 years in October 2019. Meanwhile, the family continues to face social stigma.
Kiran, who lives in a village of the Rasoolabad block in Kanpur rural, had accompanied her elder sister and brother to watch the Ramlila performance in her village on December 31, 2015. At about 11.30 pm, when she went to relieve herself in a nearby dark nook, she was dragged by the accused to a far-off place.
Kiran is now ill at ease when someone visits to meet her. Scouring dishes in her verandah, her glum face and silence betray her agony.
Not wishing to prod her on the matter in the manner of a journalist, when I instead told her the accused have been sentenced to 20 years’ imprisonment, she remarked without looking, “We all are not happy with this. The accused’s family members still come to our doorstep in an inebriated state to hurl abuses and quarrel. My brother has been sent away due to fear. I pine for school but fear social censure and it effects on me.”
Having washed the utensils, she sat on a nearby cot and said: “If they can’t be hanged, at least they should be kept behind bars forever. My father keeps ill due to constant worrying and has also spent a huge sum on treatment and eats only once a day. Since the incident, people are not nice to us anymore. Since all this has happened because of me, I feel bad.” Choking with emotions, she quietly leaves and disappears swiftly into one of the rooms.
With everyone quiet, there was an eerie silence in the household. Kiran’s elder sister broke the silence, cursing herself for “bringing this upon the family”. She said, “We had never had such incidents before. That is why we all had been to the Ramlila. When she had to attend to nature’s call, she didn’t tell me and I didn’t pay attention because everyone was engaged in aarti. When she didn’t return, we went looking for her. I don’t know what was wrong with those people (the accused) that they could harm someone so badly.”
Talking about the ordeal of her sister, she said, “Ever since this thing has happened, she has given up talking to anyone or attending weddings. She studies at home and doesn’t go for coaching or to the school. It is difficult to tell everyone not to talk about the incident to her.”
The survivor’s family is unhappy with the punishment given to the rapists and faces constant intimidation; the survivor is mentally disturbed and then there is the question of rightful compensation for minor rape victims. What does the law say about these issues?
“Each perpetrator of the crime should be punished, irrespective of the quantum of punishment. The sentence in the said case is adequate,” said Lucknow-based lawyer Renu Mishra, who works with the NGO, AALI (Association for Advocacy and Legal Initiatives), which provides free legal aid to women. If the aggrieved party wishes the sentence to be extended, it can move the High Court, she said.
“If the victim suffers from mental distress, her family can apply to the investigating officer who, in turn, would write to the district medical officer and the victim shall receive help. In cases of child sexual abuse, Rs 7 lakh must be provided as compensation. If the amount is not given, one may seek help from the district probation officer. Also, on the family facing intimidation, it can lodge an FIR in the local police station.”
Kiran’s mother had a lot to share as no one else had cared to lend an ear to the family’s woes and challenges. “Two weeks after the incident, my brother passed away — the neighbourhood didn’t bother to see us. This was a happy home with three school-going kids. It has now been shattered by the tragic happenings. All our savings have been used up in fighting the case and in our child’s treatment. We are scarred forever,” she said. “A lawyer charged Rs 200 just to inform us about the court’s date for the case. We never gave up and couldn’t have done anything had we been intimidated by the threats.”
Kiran’s father, who worked round the clock to get justice for his daughter, said, “It is all my fault. Had I not allowed them to go out that night, no such thing would have happened. I constantly get threats that I will be gunned down. Besides this case, I may have lodged 50 other applications in the police station. We have to keep our son with the relatives for his safety. We can’t help but live in disgrace.”
He added: “After 20 dates, we came to know our signatures were needed for the dates to be validated. I took my child and wife along innumerable times to the headquarters situated 60-65 km away. Whenever we left home, it was with fear that we may be killed. Even now, if someone leaves the house, we worry till they return.”
In such serious cases, compensation is provided from the state’s Rani Laxmi Bai Mahila Evam Bal Samman Kosh for survivor’s rehabilitation; the financial aid ranges from Rs 3-10 lakh.
Kiran’s father said the family had to face numerous issues during the trial of the case. “We never wanted an innocent to be punished because our daughter could not see the faces of rapists in the dark. It was only through the police investigation that the accused could be identified and arrested. Had they been imprisoned for life we would have been satisfied. Now, if they are freed after 20 years, my son may have to face their ire,” he said.
“The incident has also hampered my children’s studies. My elder daughter may find it difficult to find a suitable husband. The younger one is disturbed. We have also become ill constantly worrying about our son. Our relations with the neighbours and relatives have soured. Our savings of Rs 2-3 lakh have dried up. We feel cheated despite having lost so much.”
Kiran has, so far, received only Rs 3 lakh as compensation against the Rs 7 lakh she should have got. The administration decides the compensation on a case-by-case basis. “Every district has a nodal officer nominated by the police superintendent who uploads details of each case. Thereafter, the case reaches us on the portal and is duly investigated and then a meeting is chaired by the district magistrate following which the money is directed to the victim’s account,” said Girija Shanker Saroj, the backward section welfare officer of Kanpur (dehat).