Mahendra Ram Meghwal, whose daughter, Delta was found dead on March 29, 2016, after being allegedly raped and killed in Rajasthan’s Bikaner, is today a bitter man, waging a lone battle to get justice.
“When I asked my cousins today to attend a small ceremony in memory of my daughter, they refused, saying that they were busy,” say the primary school teacher from Bikaner.
“Bachchi to meri gayi, unka kya gaya (It was me who lost a daughter, what did they lose),” says Megwal, who is disillusioned with the justice and education system.
The 17-year old Dalit girl’s body was found in a water tank of the teachers’ training institute where she was studying.
Following pressure from Dalit groups and civil society, chief minister Vasundhara Raje recommended a CBI probe into the case but the probe never took place.
The Bikaner police arrested three people in connection with the case – a physical training instructor, the hostel warden and the college principal – for abetment of the girl’s suicide.
While the instructor is in judicial custody, the other two are out on bail, police said.
Delta complained a number of times to her father that the hostel warden used to send her to the instructor’s room for cleaning.
While Megwal believes that his daughter was killed, police suggest that the girl committed suicide after being caught in a compromising situation with the instructor.
One year on, Megwal has lost faith in the judicial system or getting justice.
But what has been more jarring for him is the reversal brought about by the incident in his life.
Earlier, he used to go door to door exhorting people to send their daughters for higher education. Now, he discourages those who wish to do so.
“If you want to keep them safe, make them sit at home after Class 8 or Class 10. At least you’ll be able to see their faces when you breathe your last,” he says.
Delta, once an inspiration to girls in the village, has become an example to discourage girls from studying further.
Megwal’s three other children, including a son, who was studying veterinary sciences, another who was preparing for his medical entrance in Kota, and a girl who was in Class 11, have all left their studies and now sit at home.
Megwal, who was pursuing his Masters of Arts in Hindi that would have helped in his promotion, left it midway.
“I have developed a sort of allergy towards education,” he says.
“You seek education to clear your foggy vision, but if you lose your eye in the process, why would you want it?”
Today, Megwal finds himself a lone fighter against powerful people with connections. “People tell me to give up as I am a government servant and they might get me transferred,” he says.
“Kehte hain bachchi to gayi, baaqi parivaar ko to door mat karo (They say you’ve already lost a girl, don’t do something that might make you leave the rest of the family too).”
Making ends meet and keeping his remaining children safe, apart from his weakened quest for justice, are the only things that keeps him going.