After gangrape, family wonders how to pick up the pieces

NAT

It's been over four months since she was gangraped but the 11-year-old's physical scars have not yet healed. Still in a hospital in Jaipur, she has had 14 reconstructive surgeries since being raped on August 20 and is awaiting a 15th, after which doctors believe she will be fit enough to be sent home to Bihar. That is expected to take another month.

And alongside the mental scars is the uncertainty of what lies ahead. Her family worries whether she will ever live a normal life. One of her sisters has already became a victim of the stigma caused by the rape; her engagement was called off. The psychological counselling the child has been getting is likely to stop once she goes back to Darbhanga. And there is also the fight for justice to carry on with. The family alleges they have been getting threats to withdraw their complaint with the police.

The girl is the youngest of six sisters and a brother. After her father died last year, her mother and the younger siblings moved to Sikar in Rajasthan, where one of her married sisters is settled. The mother found a job with a plastic factory and the 11-year-old would accompany her to work.

The day after Eid, they went to the cinema. After the evening show, three of the sisters were walking home when a jeep pulled up next to them. One of the two men inside initially tugged at the dupatta of one of the elder sisters but it slipped out of his hand. They turned to the 11-year-old, grabbed her through the open window and dragged her for half a kilometre. Strapped to the back seat, she was raped through the night by the two men, who were in their early 30s.

When the effect of alcohol wore off the next morning, they panicked. They approached a friend, who gave them and money and advised them to get rid of the girl. They drove her to a deserted field, dropped her and hid in friends' houses for three days, switching ff their phones.

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