“I saw the bullet in my chest and just yanked it out,” were the chilling words by a 14-year-old in New Delhi who, after being gang-raped for two weeks, was shot twice and then dumped into a well to die.
Very few survive this kind of horror to tell their tale. Her story makes me think in fear and helplessness at how many other equally savage tales may have remained untold.
It convinces me that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s campaign of ‘beti bachao, beti parhao’ may be pointless if, at the end of the day, girls and women are safer sitting inside the confines of their homes.
This brave teenager was kidnapped and assaulted when she went to the market for an everyday chore of buying milk. And unlike her, not everyone has the instinct to keep afloat through such torture.
India was only just recovering from last year’s ghastly gang-rapes of a two-and-a-half-year-old, and a five-year-old toddler.
Our instinct begs us to cover our ears and our children’s eyes to avoid this vicious reality. Jaded as we are, it will not take long for our denial mechanism to kick in and for us to distance ourselves from such savage everyday news.
What isn’t going away doesn’t always have to be faced.
In India, the New Year has started exactly as the last one ended; the suffering only more unimaginable.
We know what is not a deterrent: a justice system where the wheels churn so slowly that we have come full circle many times over.
Memory is short, the public has been worn out, so punishing a rapist after 10 years just makes his friends fearless.
Sometimes, like in the 2012 rape of Nirbhaya in a moving bus, parents and other citizens come out on the streets in frustration. A few cases get fast tracked, but by and large, it’s the same old story.
Without a harsh message, some of these men are becoming bolder, their victims younger.
Delhi is now seen as a violent city. It is also a city that is robbing kids of their childhood when they are kidnapped while playing outside their own homes, and raped.
The shackles of decades-old male dominance and the blind power it gives to men in our society now needs to be broken — the preference for a boy child makes them all powerful at birth.
Nothing will change unless these men are taught to respect not just their sisters but also their friends.
Delhi, now justifiably called our rape capital, is not easy on its rape victims. It is a city that will finger point and soon, the identity of this teenager will be only that of a rape victim.
It will forget how she bravely survived an onslaught of men and shocked them by coming out alive from the well.
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In the small bylanes of Delhi, instead of collective remorse, she and her family will now be shunned; shame is more ingrained than fear.
For most, even going to our police stations to report the crime brings ridicule to injury. Yet, this young girl has spoken out. She still has a bullet in her body along with mental scars that may never heal.
Maybe her family will move somewhere else and try and give her a new start for it is not often that a rape victim, that too someone so young, speaks out here.
Her words still echo,
“I was determined to fight my way out of hell”.
Her hell is also now ours because Delhi is no longer a city for the brave.
It is a city where parents are now scared to let their child get an ice-cream from the neighbourhood shop.
It is a place where a mother shadows her young girls who just want to feel the air on their face when they play on the swing in the park.
New Delhi is where innocence is now in danger.