“Yeh desh ladkiyon ke liye nahi raha (this is no country for women anymore),” pronounces Chhutki’s father, as we sit in the waiting ward at AIIMS Hospital where, currently, his baby – who was raped three months ago – is soon to undergo her (hopefully) final surgery.
The baby, now 11 months old – but perhaps forever impressed in newsprint as the 8-month-old rape survivor – was fondly referred to as ‘Chhutki’ by The Quint in its subsequent reportage and as it started spending more and more time with the family.
Today, while his entire world lies in the paediatrics ward at AIIMS, Chhutki’s father is horrified at the rape and murder of the 8-year-old minor in the Jammu district of Kathua, not many miles from the national capital where he’d walked in to find his own baby raped and abandoned.
"Abhi ek 8 saal ki ladki ke saath bhi aisa hua hai. Main baar baar news dekh raha tha. Koi aisa kaise kar sakta hai chhoti bacchiyo ke saath? (Now, someone has done this to an 8-year-old girl also). I was glued to the news when I heard about it. How can anyone be so cruel to girls?"
Raped and Abandoned, Allegedly by Her Own Cousin
Chhutki’s father is contemplating moving out of the house – if not the city – altogether. His 28-year-old nephew Suraj confessed to the crime of raping the 8-month-old baby when she was sleeping alone in her room, while her parents had left for work on the morning of 28 January 2018. Chhutki’s parents who scrape in meagre earnings (her father is a daily wage labourer, while her mother works as domestic staff in houses nearby) had left their two little girls in the care of their relatives, with whom they share the two-storey house.
It was while the couple was away that the alleged rapist sneaked into the room – reportedly under the influence of alcohol – and raped the baby, leaving her lying, after, in a pool of her own blood and stool. While Suraj is currently in police custody, Chhutki has so far undergone extensive surgeries – including one to create an artificial opening in her lower abdomen for urine and stool to pass.
It is this artificial opening that will finally be sealed tomorrow at AIIMS, so that Chhutki’s 11-month-old body can perform natural bodily functions. The Quint had, through the course of its reporting, also started a crowdfunding campaign to help raise funds for Chhutki’s immediate medical needs and her education in the future.
Kathua’s horror has brought a lot of the initial trauma flooding back for the young father, who says he doesn’t know where his two girls will be safe (his older daughter is two-and-a-half years old).
"“Main nahi jaanta meri betiya kaha surakshit rahegi. Yaha aur shanti nahi milti. Kathua mein jo hua usse mujhe bahut bura laga. Chhoti bacchiyo par yeh zulm kyun ho raha hai? Koi kuch kar kyun nahi raha? (I don’t know where my daughters will be safe. I don’t find any peace here anymore). What happened to the little girl in Kathua shocked and saddened me. Why are these crimes being perpetrated more and more on little girls? Why isn’t anyone doing anything to stop them?”" - Chhutki’s Father
Chhutki’s father and mother have stopped going to work since January, staying at home to take care of their two children. Friday’s surgery will mark perhaps the first stop on the path to their collective recovery.
. Read more on Women by The Quint.In Pics: Army, Governments Celebrate India’s CWG Stars on ReturnFather of 8-Month-Old Rape Survivor Speaks About Kathua 8-Year-Old . Read more on Women by The Quint.