Pooja Chauhan does not regret stripping in public on Tuesday to draw attention to the cruelty of her in-laws and the inaction of the police despite “repeated complaints”.
Looking composed, the 22-year-old says: “No sane woman wants to strip willingly in public. But I had no other option. The police and the so-called custodians of society were mute spectators to my plight.”
She is certain that had she not staged her protest, “no one would have taken any note of me” or of what she went through in her four-year married life. Pooja is angry that her tormentors — husband Pratapsinh Chauhan, in-laws and their two neighbours Ranchhod Bharwad and Vinod Dalit — are on bail after their arrest on Wednesday.
“My husband, my father-in-law and mother-in-law used to harass me mentally and physically. My husband forced me to have illicit relations with other men and earn for him. Ranchhod and Vinod also tormented me, when I was living separately. Ranchhod once hit me badly and I sustained serious injuries,” she revealed.
She is particularly angry with Ranchhod and wants to teach him a lesson.
"I won’t hesitate to take the law in my hands. I will first teach a lesson to Ranchhod and then to the rest of my tormentors."
Pooja has studied only up to Standard IV. She does not know what a sensation she has created with her protest. Nor does she know anything about the interest the Human Rights Commissions and women’s organisations are taking in her.
On Friday, members of the Saurashtra-Kutch Network on Violence Against Women, an Ahmedabad-based NGO, visited Pooja and offered to help her.
"We’ve given a complaint to the Protection Officer of the Gujarat government’s Samaj Suraksha Gruh and the Rajkot police commissioner under the Domestic Violence Act, 2005. The Protection Officer will have to ensure that she is safe, wherever she stays,” the NGO's co-ordinator Dhiraj Dervaliya said.
Meanwhile, Pooja has left her parents’ home. She is determined to live anywhere, but “never return to my husband’s home".