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The Rediff Special/Ehtasham Khan in New Delhi
February 09, 2004
The scar will remain with her forever, but she wants her tormentors to be brought to book.
Nearly six months after she was raped and abandoned by medical neglect, Meenakshi (name changed) has emerged as a woman with a mission.
Earlier Special: She wants to start life afresh
Her fight is not only against the rapist, she says, but the entire system.
She wants to expose the "corrupt" health services.
Sitting in a one-room tenement in Trilokpuri in east Delhi, Meenakshi, who is only 20, wipes her tears and smiles.
"I have to move on in life," she says, unable to control her tears.
"I want the hospital authorities to be punished. The doctors must understand their responsibility," she says.
Wearing a pink salwar kameez, she talks about the incident that changed her life, and its aftermath. Her father is a tailor, her mother a nurse.
Meenakshi -- who also worked as a nurse -- gave up her job after the rape.
"I have got a purpose in life," she says.
She has filed a petition in the Delhi high court against the government-run Guru Tegh Bahadur Hospital and the privately-owned Shanti Mukund Hospital, seeking both compensation and action against the doctors.
She has demanded that the Guru Tegh Bahadur Hospital's license be cancelled for allegedly refusing to treat her and forcing her to leave the hospital without proper treatment.
The high court issued notices to the two hospitals last month, asking them to explain why action should not be taken against them.
Meenakshi was raped on the night of September 6-7, 2003 at the Shanti Mukund Hospital in east Delhi while she was taking care of a comatose patient.
Bhura, the 21-year-old alleged rapist, worked as a ward boy at the hospital. He is currently in judicial custody.
He allegedly raped her while she was sleeping next to the patient's bed. When she resisted, he forced his fingers inside her eyes and almost gouged them out. He then dragged her to the bathroom and locked her inside. She lay there unconscious and bled through the night.
The Shanti Mukund Hospital allegedly did not treat her and referred her to the Guru Tegh Bahadur Hospital. That too only when her neighbours protested the next day.
Doctors at the Guru Tegh Bahadur Hospital did not attend to her for three days. Senior doctors rushed in only when her condition was highlighted in the media.
Due to the delay in treatment, she lost sight in her right eye. She can only see only through her left eye which was also infected and healed after a long time.
The Delhi police finally swung into action four months after the incident, when documentary filmmaker Rajan Kumar moved the court seeking action against the hospitals.
In January, the police arrested Dr Saurabh Srivastava of the Shanti Mukund Hospital and Dr Mayank Pagte of the Guru Tegh Bahadur Hospital for alleged negligence. The doctors were released on bail.
But Meenakshi's fight continues.
"I have full faith in the judiciary," she says. "I am not just fighting for myself. I want to give a message to society."
She had wanted to appear for her Class 10 examination this year, but that intention was scuttled by the rape and the trauma that followed. She left school when the family migrated to Delhi from Kerala about eight years ago. Since then she had been working along with her mother. The family earned just enough to sustain themselves in Delhi.
"I won't be able to write the exam this year. I am studying and will appear next year," she says.
She received Rs 50,000 from the Delhi government after the crime. Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit promised to give her a job. "I am yet to hear from the government about the job," she adds.
"Technically, she is not qualified for a job because she has not finished her formal education," says Raj Mangal Prasad of Pratidhi, an NGO, which helps rape victims. "However, we are trying to get her a job in the fourth grade."
Image: Dominic Xavier