First they made her suffer, then her misery doubled when she lost her job, said a relative describing the plight of the 35-year-old rape survivor living in Ghaziabad, in western Uttar Pradesh.
Much like the mother-daughter duo of nearby Bulandshahr, who were waylaid and allegedly gang-raped by criminals last month while travelling on National Highway 91 late in the night, the woman too had the misfortune of falling prey to a gang on the loose.
Pillion riding on the bike of a relative, she was one her way home after a hard day’s work at a factory in Noida on the night of April 22 this year when they decided to take a short cut and got off National Highway 24.
They had barely gone some distance when they were stopped by five men lurking in the shadows of the desolate stretch. The relative was thrashed and then pinned down while the men took turns to rape the woman. Before they let her go, she was threatened with dire consequences if she dared to go to the police.
Though badly bruised, she plucked the courage to go to the police and lodge a complaint, following which three suspects were arrested and the hunt is on for another two. According to Salmantaj Patil, superintendent of police(city), a chargesheet has been filed against the accused and the case is set for trial.
But the woman is struggling to piece together her life. She was fired from the factory where she worked as she remained absent for about three weeks due to the injuries she sustained that night.
She does part-time jobs now, but her earnings are barely enough to bring up her three children properly. “Earlier she made about Rs 15,000 a month. Now in a good month, she earns about Rs 8,000,” points out her brother.
In between, her husband deserted her and she is currently left to face the barbs that neighbours routinely fire at her. Last week, there was an altercation with a neighbour but it came to an abrupt end when the other party spoke aloud about “knowing what had happened to her on April 22”. The woman burst into tears and rushed back home.
But there is no escaping her “past” even within the four walls of the home. Her eldest daughter is now 13 years old and has begun to question why neighbours speak in hushed tones about “something that happened in a dark night”. The mother and daughter have had a long chat and for the moment, the daughter has gone quiet. “Ab ladki kuch nahi bolti... maa ne usko samjha diya hoga (the daughter doesn’t ask anymore... her mother must have explained it to her),” her brother says.
However, the memories of the ordeal resurface every second day, when the woman takes the same stretch of road to and from work. They are painful, but give her the resolve to bring the culprits to book.
Some neighbours have advised them to drop the case and get on with life. “Lekin ham nahi jhuke... jo hua wo galat tha... meri bahan roz usi dard se guzar rahi hai... case ladenge pura zor laga ke (We didn’t budge... what happened to her was wrong. We will fight the case with all our resources),” her brother says. The woman nods in silent agreement.
This is the concluding story of a three-part series.
The alleged gangrape of a mother and her daughter at Bulandshahr in UP has put the focus back on crimes against women in the country’s most populous state. HT revisits some cases that are yet to see closure.