For two weeks, 12-year-old Tina (name changed) hid the fact that she was sexually assaulted by her neighbour, a man she called mama (maternal uncle), fearing that it would put lives of her family members in danger.
She would have buried the horrific experience in her heart and faced the trauma all her life had her younger sister, who too was raped by the same accused, not revealed the crime to her aunt and mother. She told them that Tina and four other girls in the locality were victimised by the accused, Johnny Ghosh, a toy seller.
Tina broke down only when her family members tried to comfort her and assured that nobody would harm her or other members in the family. When she opened up, her ordeals shocked everybody in the family and neighbourhood.
The 12-year-old girl alleged that on the fateful evening, Ghosh had tied her limbs and put a knife on the throat before sexually assaulting her.
He had threatened to kill her mother, a widow, and sisters if she told anybody about it. To avoid facing similar suffering, Tina stopped visiting Ghosh’s home and talking to him, not knowing that her silence would encourage Ghosh to victimise her sister and other minor girls in the locality.
When Tina’s family got Ghosh arrested some locals, who sympathised with him and declared him innocent, blamed the families for ruining his life. Tina’s mother and parents of two other girls now plan to shift from the jhuggi camp because many of the residents have been boycotting them alleging that they blew the matter out of proportion.
“Some of them (residents) have started passing abuses at us and on our daughters. They are calling my daughters to their homes and admonishing them for giving statements against Ghosh. A few of them ask my daughters to explain how actually they were sexually assaulted and for how long. How can people ask such details from minor children, who don’t even know the meaning of rape?” said Tina’s mother.
The parents of two other victims also feel the same pain and are planning to permanently move out. “Instead of supporting us in this tragedy, the residents are accusing our children for cooking up false stories against Ghosh. Their indifferent behaviour has forced us to mostly remain indoors. We have been preventing our children from playing outside, as they might be harmed,” said mother of the two girls.
The entire locality is now divided into two groups. The other group believes that the families of the girls cooked up stories of sexual assault for monetary compensation from the government and various NGOs. “The entire game is for money. The families would get at least `5 lakh each,” said a 50-year-old neighbour on condition of anonymity.