An eight-year-old who was allegedly raped in a south Delhi temple on Janmashtami by a 70-year-old priest says she doesn't want to fall asleep again. "I see Baba’s face every time I close my eyes," the traumatised child adds.
A fortnight after the incident, she has had to relive the trauma over and again — giving her statement to the police, identifying her rapist in the Test Identification Parade (TIP). The gaze of journalists too has been unwavering.
The accused, Baba Vishvabandhu, allegedly raped the girl and her seven-year-old friend on August 18 (Janmashtami).
Delhi: Priest held for rape on Janmashtami
The priest, a trusted member of the girls’ village near Mehrauli for more than a decade, had been allegedly molesting the girls for more than a week.
Legal proceedings have started in the case before a magistrate's court in Saket. The eight-year-old has already had to confront the accused twice — during identification and when he was sent to judicial custody on August 19.
On Sunday, she lay supine on a chatai (mat), surrounded by her mother, father, neighbours, and acquaintances. Her seven-year-old friend — also targeted by the priest — sat quietly by her side.
The crime came to light after the eight-year-old girl complained to her mother of pain in her lower abdomen and difficulty passing urine before finally breaking down in tears and revealing the abuse.
Her mother works as a maid and her father is a cook.
The temple where the abuse took place is less than 500 metres away from their jhuggi.
“Every time I see the temple, I start crying,” says her mother, tears welling up in her eyes.
A community member and teacher who has been counselling the children and their families says, "The whole community is in shock. He (the priest) has been living among us for over a decade, can you imagine the implications?”
With journalists making a beeline for the village, the teacher has temporarily moved the children and their families so that they do not have to repeatedly relive their trauma.
"They are slowly recovering," the teacher says.
The accused, Vishvabandhu, was arrested on August 18. After being produced before metropolitan magistrate Shreya Arora, he was sent to judicial custody.
Delhi has seen a massive rise in crimes against children over the years and is deemed one of the most unsafe cities in India. Between 2003 and 2013, child rape cases rose five-fold from 140 to 757.
Across the country, 58,224 crimes against children were registered in 2013, up 52.5% from the previous year, according to a June 2014 report by the National Crime Records Bureau.
Crimes against women, including rape and molestation, are on the rise in the Capital, even after the enactment of stringent rape laws brought on by the December 2012 gang rape.