Sector: Legal Cell
After the death of her mother, Rani’s life would never be the same. The pain of this loss caused her father to begin drinking alcohol heavily. Unable to control his problem, Rani’s father began taking out his anger on his three daughters and one son. Rani’s father started sexually assaulting his two older daughters. They desperately wanted to seek out help and tell someone their story; however, they were told to keep quiet. Finally, they could tolerate no more. Both girls complained to their Panchayat (local governing body) and their Mama (maternal uncle). The Panchayat said that because this was a family matter, it would not take any action. Rani’s Uncle felt he could not speak up. After some deliberation, he decided the best course of action would be to quickly marry the girls off even though they were only 12 and 14 years old. However, this was only a temporary solution to deal with the father’s drinking problem.
When Rani was only eight years old, her father started to sexually abuse her. This continued for six long, grueling years. While other children in her village received love and care from their fathers, Rani and her brother, Rakesh, were victims of their father’s despair. As children, they were helpless in being able to defend themselves. Even when they thought about seeking help, their father threatened to kill them with a knife that he always kept tucked away. They had no choice but to be at the mercy of their father. Whether it was Rakesh or Rani, their father constantly needed an outlet for his anger. The father would often beat Rakesh if he was at home. As for Rani, her father would send Rakesh away at night so that he could abuse her. Rakesh was forced to sleep in his neighbor’s dirty cowshed, leaving him oblivious to the whole situation. He would leave early each morning so that his neighbors would not find out he was there. With Rakesh gone every night, Rani had never felt so alone in her life.
When Rani tried to get her brother’s support in talking to the police, he denied the whole situation. To admit that his father was abusing his own sister would be to ruin any prospect of a normal family life. This drove Rani to take drastic actions against her father. Once, while her father and brother were working in the field, Rani decided to poison her father’s dinner with pesticide. Rakesh returned from the field early and asked to eat his dinner. He took the poisoned thali that was meant for his father; however, Rani immediately snatched it away from him. Rakesh instantly knew that something was not right. Rani was forced to expose her plan to poison her father and Rakesh prevented her from doing so. Although no one listened to Rani’s story at first, it was not enough for her to give up.
After six years of taking the abuse of her father, 14 year old Rani decided to tell the Mahila Mandal (Village Women’s Group) President and Secretary about what her father was doing to her. When she approached the Mahila Mandal, she was very disturbed. Vocalizing her experience was hard enough; however, not knowing if the Mahila Mandal members could help her was even worse. But the Mahila Mandal members came through for Rani. Although they were not sure what to do, they had heard about CORD’s Legal Cell Sector and they decided to seek their help. When they arrived at CORD, they talked to CORD workers Jyoti and Pushpa about their situation. They then went to the Deputy Director of CORD for guidance.
CORD recommended that the women seek help from the police. However, this would require funds that Rani did not have. So the Mahila Mandal women decided to take action. Without hesitation the women gave 15 rupees each so that Rani and the Mahila Mandal President and Secretary could hire a vehicle to go to the police station. With CORD workers Mamta and Pushpa, the women met with police officer Shri Deshraj Chandrotiya with the hope that Rani would get her life back into order. The police did an immediate investigation and that very day they arrested Rani’s father while she was in school. The police filed a First Information Report (FIR) with help of the Mahila Mandal members. Rani attempted to have a medical examination done at Dharamsala Hospital. When Rani was able to see a doctor, the doctor refused to examine her because she was a minor and had no family present. Rani, accompanied by a CORD worker, visited her sisters’ homes and begged them to accompany her at the hospital so that they could stop their father from ever hurting any of them again. The elder sister refused to give support; however, Rani’s other sister knew that she had to help in some way, so she secretly went with Rani to the hospital so that her in-laws would not find out. The doctor examined Rani and confirmed her story about her father. The police went to Rani’s home and collected evidence supporting Rani’s statement that her father had threatened to kill his children.
After her father was arrested, Rani stayed at CORD for a week. To protect her identity, people were told that she was just a young rural girl wanting to take computer classes. Alongside Lalita, a Legal Cell worker, Rani was given company and a friend so that she would not feel alone. Rani also stayed at some of the CORD workers’ homes so that she constantly had company. However, a more sustainable solution would have to be found.
Despite her father being in jail, Rani still had to deal with the psychological damage that her father had caused. Rani’s two older sisters cut themselves off from Rani and her brother. Their in-laws were unaware of their hidden past and would surely disown them if they found out. CORD suggested to Rani that she start the healing process in her own village. However, Rani could not bear the site of the village since she knew she no longer had their support. Although she was proud of her actions, her family and village could not understand what she had done. They looked at her as if she had committed a sin. Even the Mahila Mandal members who had helped Rani were receiving criticism from the other villagers for filing a police report. Due to social pressure and established village norms, going to the police was seen as disruptive of village life. Discussion of what happened to Rani was taboo, even if it meant that the truth would remain hidden. Rani knew in her heart that they would never let her live in peace. CORD acknowledged her resentment at staying in her own village and suggested that she stay at Bal Sadan Panchkula, a loving home for girls in Chandigarh run by Chinmaya Mission members. There, she would have the opportunity to continue her education and start her life over again.
Rakesh still had more obstacles to face. His father wanted to pay bail and be a free man. When their father tried to pay the bail money, he was short of funds. In desperation, he decided to sell his land in order to meet advocate and court fees. This put Rakesh in a difficult situation since not only was he living on this land, but it had been passed down from his grandfather. Fortunately, he was able to keep some of the land because his father’s bail was denied. CORD acted on Rani’s behalf by informing Rani’s advocate of all the case details. Rani’s advocate from the Human Rights Law Network researched the case and informed Rani’s lawyer of the entire situation. The advocate also advised the lawyer to argue that if her father was let out on bail, he would create additional problems for his children. The judge ruled in favor of Rani. By winning the case, Rani had won back the possibility for a happy life.
Currently, Rani is in the 6th standard and doing well. She is finally able to have a normal life where she is not criticized for the actions she took against her father. At present, Rakesh is in the 10th standard and living in his home. He receives help and support from the Mahila Mandal in order to make himself independent and self-sufficient. Rakesh has stayed in close contact with CORD and participates in many of CORD’s youth programs. Although Rani and Rakesh have had to deal with a troubled past, they are able to live peacefully knowing that justice was served.
NOTE: The names of the characters have been changed.