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17 surgeries in 13 months: Who will fight for this 11-yr-old rape victim?

Last updated on: September 10, 2013 16:38 IST

Who will fight for this 11-yr-old rape victim?



Without mass protests or the involvement of high-profile accused or media spotlight, timely action is a far-fetched reality for most rape victims in India. The brutal story of this girl shows the apathy of our justice system, heart-breakingly so, says Shahnawaz Akhtar

Rape accused and self-proclaimed 'godman' Asaram Bapu has been arrested and booked under the Prevention of Children from Sexual Offences Act for allegedly sexually abusing a minor.

Celebrities like actress Sonam Kapoor took to the streets of Mumbai to protest the gangrape at Shakti Mills in the city, while actor Farhan Akhtar has launched a movement -- Men Against Rape and Discrimination -- after the Delhi gangrape case.

But if such news stories make you think that strict and swift action against rapists is finally being taken in India, then you will be wrong.

Without mass protests or the involvement of high-profile accused or media spotlight, timely action is a far-fetched reality for most rape victims in India. 

The brutal story of this girl shows the apathy of our justice system, heart-breakingly so.

She was just 11 years old when she was gangraped by six men in August last year. Her body was violated to such an extent that hospitals have become her home since then. She has undergone 17 operations -- both major and minor ones -- and is waiting for another one.

But neither have any of the six accused been booked under POSCA nor has the trial begun.

A resident of Bihar's Darbhanga district, the girl was holidaying at her elder sister’s place in Sikar, Rajasthan.

It was Eid. She and her other sisters decided to celebrate the festival by watching a film with some of their new-found friends in Sikar.

"We were returning home when a group of men tried grabbing me. I, along with the other girls in our group, began running. My youngest sister couldn’t catch up and they grabbed her. When we reached a safe spot, we realised that she was missing. But by that time, it was too late. They had sped off in a jeep," said Chanda, the survivor's elder sister.

Police, according to the family, were not interested in registering the case, till a local paper reported the incident next day. During that period, while police procrastinated, Chanda's sister had been brutally gangraped and dumped at a deserted forest area to die.

Spotted by locals, she was initially rushed to a local hospital and later to Jaipur's J K Lon Hospital for treatment.

There, her frail body underwent 17 surgeries to reconstruct her anal anatomy.

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Image: A protest to seek justice for the 11-year-old victim


Who will fight for this 11-yr-old rape victim?

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"When she was brought here, the septum separating the vagina and anus had been severely ruptured," says Dr L D Agrawal, the surgeon who had treated the girl when she was brought to Jaipur.

The Rajasthan government provided Rs 5 lakh compensation to the girl’s family and also funded her treatment. The girl was shifted to Delhi earlier this year and she is currently undergoing treatment at AIIMS.

"My sister was not getting proper treatment at J K Lon Hospital. Four of the operations performed at the Jaipur hospital were wrongly done. The doctors at AIIMS told us there was no need to perform the last four operations which my sister had to undergo despite her frail condition. Those operations could have been fatal," said a tearful Chanda.

At AIIMS, the victim was kept under observation for a week, after which she was released.

She, along with her family, has been living at Rajasthan Bhavan in Delhi since then.

“Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot has made arrangements for us to stay here as my daughter needs to undergo a final operation some time in September,” said her mother.

Interestingly, at a time when the nation is talking of stringent laws and fast-track courts to punish rapists, not much action has been taken in the Sikar gangrape case.

The family has claimed that six men raped the child, but the lackadaisical police have registered rape cases against only two of the accused, while the others have been released on bail.

More than a year after the heinous incident, the accused are yet to be identified, much less tried at any court of justice.

"The victim hails from a lower middle-class family, while the accused are from affluent backgrounds, hence the delay. One of the accused hails from a rich family which owns a fire cracker business while the other has a strong political connection," said social activist Naseema Khatoon, who has been fighting to seek justice for the girl.

"If you glance through cases that have rocked the nation, most of the victims came from well-to-do, educated families. They knew what needs to be done to get justice, unlike this girl’s family," she said.

While both activists and the victim’s family claim that justice for the girl has been criminally delayed, investigating officials beg to differ.

"Because of her health, the girl could not attend an identification parade. As soon as she identifies the accused, their trial will begin," said Sikar Superintendent of Police Gaurav Srivastava.

But several questions continue to dog the police investigation, including why rape charges were slapped on two of the accused and not all six men, when the survivor had not identified any of them.

"We have heard that these accused had performed gang-rapes earlier," Khatoon added.

Rajasthan, according to latest statistics, ranks third among states with the highest number of registered rape cases.

Of the 44 cases which were registered in 2012, 15 victims were in the age group of 10-18 years.

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