iconimg Sunday, August 30, 2015

Saeed Khan and Divya Raje Bhonsale, Hindustan Times
Indore, December 26, 2012
More than 650 km from Delhi, and a million light years away from public consciousness, cousins Neha and Sandhya (names changed) are trying to move on with their lives after being gangraped by 16 men in February.

No protester has ever marched the streets seeking justice for them. No candlelight marches have pierced the darkness in their lives, demanding death or castration for the accused, two of whom are out on bail.

The victims of a village near Betma town, 35km west off Indore, are suffering a double dose of victimisation in the form of a community boycott.

Neha, 18, escaped the boycott in April after marrying the boy she was engaged to before the rape. She has moved to another city. Sandhya, 19, is now alone with her mother and younger brother. Her father is dead.

The social isolation has come tagged with a loss of livelihood. “I used to work as a casual labourer during the sowing and harvesting season, but now I don’t get any work,” said Sandhya’s mother. The family relies on the Rs.30-40 brought in by the son, who works at a local garage.

The Rs.2 lakh relief given by the government to Sandhya — Neha too received a similar amount — has been kept aside, untouched so far. 

Sandhya remains cooped up in a dark and dingy 6x6 feet room. “I can’t gather the courage (to go out),” she said. A school dropout, she is trying to pick up the fragments of her life. “I am thinking of appearing for Class 8 exams.”

She doesn’t discount the possibility of marriage, if the right person comes along. “I have lost faith in relationships, but might learn to trust again.”