A sprawling shopping complex, a metro station and several foot over-bridges keep this colony in north-west Delhi hidden from public view. As people, cars and buses whizzed past the streets of the colony on that Sunday morning, no one knew that an eight-month-old was being raped in one of the houses. The infant was allegedly raped by her 28-year-old cousin, in whose care the parents had left her.
The infant’s mother, who works as a domestic help in the houses near her colony, told The Quint: “I left at around 11 am in the morning (of 28 January) for work. When I came back at 12.30 pm, I saw him (the alleged rapist) casually strolling around in the street below our house. He said to me: ‘Chachi, aap kaha jati rehti ho? Aapki bachhi ro rahi hai’ (Aunty, where did you go? Your baby is crying)”.
"I rushed in to see her lying in a pool of her blood and stool. The bedsheets were also bloody. I immediately knew what had happened." Family Determined to Make the Culprit Pay
The mother says she called out to her nephew, Suraj, asking him if he had entered the child’s room when she was away. He mumbled and fled the scene, she alleged.
She said she took her child to the nearest clinic, where a well-wisher suggested she take the case up with the police.
"I didn’t even go back home. I went straight to Netaji Subhas Place thana and filed a complaint."
The case has caused huge uproar in the capital – with Delhi Commission for Women (DCW) chief Swati Mailwal launching a satyagraha, or a non-violent protest, to urge the Centre and state to act against the rising incidence of rapes against minors. Two days after the incident, Maliwal announced:
"We will be doing Satyagraha, not going back home and working round the clock to shake the sleeping system. In case the system fails to move even then, the Delhi Commission for Women shall launch a massive agitation in the Capital."
The parents are anguished at the betrayal of trust, as they’d left their child in the custody of their extended family. “Jab apno ne hi aisa kiya, to bharosa kispe kare? (When your near and dear ones do this to you, who can you trust?)” asks the mother in pain, even as she cradles the child in her lap.
While the accused is currently in police custody, his wife and mother have moved out of the house they previously shared with the family of the infant.
"In the beginning, right after this happened, his mother came to me and requested that I withdraw the case. ‘ Yeh toh family matter hai,’ she tried to tell me, but I refused to listen. After their son was arrested, they claimed that they would support us. They’ve said that if he’s guilty, they want to see him punished too." - The mother of the infant
The infant’s parents, who also have a two-year-old daughter, say they are determined to make the culprit pay for his crime. Says the father with quiet determination,
"Alcohol isn’t something to hide – don’t a lot of people partake of it? But neither is it something you can hide behind. My nephew told the police that he was under the influence when he hurt my daughter, but how can that ever excuse anything? I could never even dream of doing such a thing even if I were intoxicated."
As the four members of the family sit within the confines of the one room they share, their attention is focused on the youngest member of the family, as they alternate between feeding her milk and crushing the yolk of eggs that doctors at AIIMS have recommended she be fed. The infant, who was initially being taken care of at a local children’s hospital, was shifted to AIIMS in the capital, after a concerned directive from the Supreme Court (which has also agreed to hear a petition that calls for better medical care for her).
As her father moves around, handling paperwork from hospitals, medical bills and prescriptions of medicines, he tells The Quint:
"All of this is expensive, but that is no matter. We (my wife and I) don’t care what we eat, as long as our two daughters are taken care of." “The Pain Keeps Her Awake”
The infant’s father says they have already received a cheque for Rs 75,000 from the court and another for Rs 50,000 from Swati Maliwal, which he is determined to use to his children’s benefit. “Apart from her medical expenses, I have decided to put away Rs 40,000 each into Fixed Deposits for my girls. I want to make sure they get a good education,” he asserts, as he alternates between holding the infant and her older sister, in his arms. Pain is writ large on his face even as he coos and makes baby noises at his little one, who breaks into an occasional smile.
"She is a little better now. But her temperament has completely changed since the incident. She doesn’t laugh like she used to. She has gotten scared looking at so many people, so many doctors – initially, she wouldn’t even go to her dad if he called her, and would start crying. She would just hold on to me." - The mother of the infant
The morning that The Quint visited the family, had been preceded by a sleepless night, the young mother confided.
"She’s slept for one hour since last night. The pain keeps her awake."
Her bandages need to be changed at least 20-25 times a day, after the multiple surgeries it took to repair the vaginal and rectal tearing, among several other injuries she sustained during the ordeal. Having just been discharged from hospital a few days ago, the doctors have advised that she be re-admitted to AIIMS again on 17 February.
Amid the bundles of medicines and the sheets of paper that surround them, and behind the stream of relatives that keeps filtering in to check in on their baby, what is apparent and arresting about the family is their determination to hold out hope for justice and to unequivocally protect their little one.
“I will never remind her of what has happened... never let her suffer for it,” says her father, as he looks on at his child. “Main to bas itna chahta hoon, ki sab pehle jaisa ho jaye (I just want everything to go back to the way it was).”
The couple have currently stopped going to work, as they tell me that all their days and energies now will be focused on her care. “Until she is completely fine, we will not let either of our children out of our sight,” says the mother.
Additional Sub Inspector Parvati at Netaji Subhas Place police station has confirmed that the accused is currently in police custody and that a chargesheet will be filed by the end of this week.
The Quint will update this story as more details emerge.
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