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Saturday, 20 February 2016

After 35 yrs of darkness, Supreme Court ray of hope in sightless rape victim’s life

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The woman at her home in Durg, Chhattisgarh.

At 10.30 every morning, she begins her journey on the dusty, rocky, treacherous path that leads from the lake she bathes in to the thatched hut she lives in — a bucket in one hand, wet clothes in the other. At the wooden door, she bends, opening the small lock with a key that hangs around her neck. She cannot see, but 35 years of practice has taught her ways to negotiate the darkness of her world. It is a world into which the Supreme Court on Thursday sent in a ray of light — and the promise of a few material comforts.
It’s been 20 years now — she was a girl of 17 then — that a man, a friend of her brother’s and a constant visitor to their home, began to make advances on her, telling her he loved her, and wanted to marry her. She was reluctant — her sight had abandoned her when she was barely two years old — but he persisted. She gave in finally, but he broke his promise to her — and even though he admitted to their relationship before the village panchayat, he still refused to marry her.

A case of rape was filed, and four years ago, the man was sentenced to seven years in prison, her neighbours at the village said. The case went up to the Supreme Court, which on Thursday ordered the Chhattisgarh government to pay her Rs 8,000 a month for life, noting that she now lives entirely alone, and without any support except a PDS scheme that gives citizens 35 kg of rice at Re 1/kg every month, and a Rs-300 physical disability pension.
Inside her two-room hut, silence is the woman’s constant companion. Her mother left the family when she was still small, and her father passed away seven years ago. Her brothers have gone their separate ways.
She was a happy child once, recall neighbours, but say that child does not exist any longer. “She was blind, but she was happy, constantly playing with her father and two brothers. Her father took care of the family, working on other people’s fields, or doing menial labour. There was never any money, but they had enough to survive,” an old neighbour said.
But she is now angry and bitter, they say, the fruits of years of neglect and loneliness. They avoid talking to her — “She nevers says anything good, and is always angry. Who wants to talk to someone who always abuses you?” her nextdoor neighbour said.
She reacted to the Supreme Court order not with happiness or relief, but with disbelief — “Iss duniya mein kaun aise madad karta hai,” she said. Slowly, as she was told by neighbours, who enter her house only when she has visitors, she came around to the possibility. “Chalo achha hai”, she said, “thodi toh sahooliyat hogi. For years I have lived like this”.
Inside her hut, the walls are bare save for three posters of Durga. A green cup holds a toothbrush and toothpaste. There is no bed or mattress, but a kerosene stove, a wood-fired chulha, and some steel vessels. Food is the rice that the government gives. Sometimes there are vegetables, but mostly not.
“When my father lived, he used to bring home money and take care of me. My brothers left the house several years ago. Now one brother comes once a week. Normally he brings wood for the chulha. Sometimes he brings a little money, but he too does a menial job, or he brings a little dal and vegetables,” she said.
“I cook on my own. Sometimes my fingers get burnt, but what else is there to do?”
She is mistrustful of people — she smiles a bit at the thought of being taken to a Nari Niketan, a possibility offered by the state, but is unenthusiastic about the idea of having others around.
“Yes, things will be better there (at the Nari Niketan). They will give me food, clothes and more pension you say? I will be better. At least I won’t have to do everything myself… But I don’t like being around people. Can they not send me whatever they have to here, in my hut?”
The fact that the Supreme Court struck down the accused’s appeal means nothing to her. “I don’t care. Usse marna hai marre, usse jeena hai jiye. God will not forgive him. I only want to live in peace, and a little comfort. Is that too much to ask?”
Her case has led the Supreme Court to ask all states and Union Territories to formulate a uniform scheme “for providing victim compensation in respect of rape/sexual exploitation with the physically handicapped women as required under law”, with a rehabilitation model framed by Goa being the benchmark.
Yet, as this 37-year-old somehow fires up the chulha at her home, the sparks inches away from her fingers, her neighbours express a fear that betrays just how deep her wounds are. “We just hope that when the government people come to tell her what to do, she doesn’t turn them away. You have to be patient with her. Bahut varshon ka gussa hai.”

Source : The  Indian Express , 14th Feb 2016 

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