Five-year-old Delhi rape victim: 'She loves school, has a best friend now'

RapeSince his daughter’s release from the hospital in May, the family’s biggest challenge has been to find a place to stay in Delhi. (IE Photo: Praveen Khanna)

A father sits on a park bench as voices of happy children whirl around him. He is a frail man, frailer still in the pallid evening light. In his hands are pages photocopied from a colouring book, perky alligators and aeroplanes and buses for his daughter to colour in. "She is happy at school. The teachers are fond of her, they say she is clever. She has a best friend too," he says.

Even a few months ago, such an assertion of parental pride would have seemed impossible, as this migrant family from Sitamarhi district in Bihar faced an unending nightmare. On April 15, his five-year-daughter went missing from his home in Gandhinagar, east Delhi. She was recovered from a neighbour's house, whimpering and bleeding profusely after two days of sexual abuse. He fainted when he saw her. The assault on her by two men, with bottles and candles, had damaged her internal organs. She needed six reconstructive surgeries, and a colostomy. Two men were arrested for the crime, and the case is being heard at a Delhi court.

In Delhi, the memory of December 16, 2012, was still raw, and the stomach-churning assault on a child added fuel to the accumulating rage against the system. The family left the east Delhi neighbourhood because the questions would not go away. From police stations to shelter homes, the father says he encountered indifference—from the police officer who bribed him with Rs 2,000 "to keep things quiet" to the shelter where his ailing daughter was allegedly slapped, and which evicted her without a day's notice. "If it were not for the pressure from news channels and the Aam Aadmi Party, who took up our cause, our daughter would never have got treated," says the man, who is in his thirties.

While financial help came from BJP leader Vijay Goel and Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar, the Delhi government, he says, promised much and did little. "Our case was not even placed in a fast-track court. When we met (then) chief minister Sheila Dikshit, she said there are hundreds of such cases. 'How am I expected to visit everyone?'," he says.

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