Camera: Athar Rather
Video Editor: Purnendu Pritam
Senior Editor: Shelly Walia
(Trigger Warning: Descriptions of sexual assault and physical violence. Viewer discretion advised.)
At first glance, Chutki* (name changed) is a happy-go-lucky child. She welcomes you into her home with infectious laugher, eagerly shows you her toys, chats non-stop about everything under the sun.
She loves Chhota Bheem and bike rides with her father. She enjoys watching songs on her phone, and playing with toy guns.
All of four years of age, Chutki is also a rape survivor. She has no memory of the trauma she went through as a eight-month-old child.
On the morning of 28 January, 2018, the then eight-month-old was allegedly raped by her 28-year-old cousin Suraj. Her mother found her lying in a pool of her own blood and stool – and life as the family knew it changed forever.
When The Quint returned to Chutki's world after a gap of two years – Chutki had grown older, but nothing else had changed. Chutki's family is still fighting to protect their daughter against the perpetrator's family, who are also their next door neighbours.
Her family is still awaiting justice.
'Every Day Is a Struggle'
For Chutki's dad Suresh* and mother Geeta* (names changed) every day is a struggle since 2018. Both of them fought hard against their own family to file a case against the alleged perpetrator – Suraj.
According to them, Suraj, Suresh's cousin confessed to the police to having raped his niece. However, his defence in front of the court though, has been ‘not guilty’.
"Our family was trying to shut us up. They said that it was a matter of the family's honour. They said don't file a complaint, let him go. I told them that today it has happened with my daughter, and tomorrow it will happen to someone else. I don't want anyone to go through what I am going through. If I am suffering, I don't want anyone else to suffer. That's all."Geeta, Chutki's Mother
Since then, Chutki's parents say that they have forgotten to 'laugh in a carefree manner.' The couple are constantly looking at the CCTV footage that has been installed in their one-room house, and say that they are living in constant fear that something will happen to their daughter.
"The days where we used to laugh and play in a carefree manner are no more. She will get justice. But the pain that she underwent, all the pain that she endured, that won't be undone. Will it? The happiness that was there before will that come back? But yes, I still want justice for my daughter."Suresh, Chutki's Father
'Help Us Shift From This Neighborhood'
While Suraj lived in the floor above theirs, he is now jailed in the Tihar jail as the case continues to be heard. However, his wife and son continue to live in the same house – and continue to put pressure on Chutki's family to withdraw the case.
Due to relentless pressure, Suresh and Geeta do not send Chutki and her elder sister to play even in the verandah of their house.
"They keep telling us to take the documents of land... they said take the documents for the house. They tried to shut us but we did not listen to any of it. When we did not listen to them they started troubling us. They fight with us and even now they continue troubling us. Because of them, the children do not play outside. They trouble us from all sides. We just stay inside. How long will we stay inside?"
The family wants to move out of the neighborhood – to go far away from the prying eyes of their neighbours and the alleged perpetrator's family. But the COVID-19 pandemic has stalled their plans.
The case has also been stalled due to the pandemic, with a hearing scheduled next month.
While Suresh works as a daily-wage earner in the construction business, Geeta, who used to work as a domestic help, stopped going to work after the incident.
"We have faced a lot of issues due to COVID. I help with laying tiles at construction sites. Since the pandemic, I get work only for 10-15 days a month. When I get work, I do. Else, I sit at home," Suresh told The Quint.
"I just want to fold my hands and tell everyone to please help with the admission of these two children and shift our family from here to somewhere else. We don't want to live here. Today they are troubling us, tomorrow they might do something else. We don't want that to happen."Chutki's Mother to The Quint
Chutki's Pending Surgery – A Worry For Parents
But shifting homes is just one of the many worries the family has. The bigger concern is the surgery that Chutki might have to undergo when she grows older.
Chutki was admitted in AIIMS, Delhi for two weeks after the incident where doctors at AIIMS performed surgery to repair a perineal tear.
Only 8 months old, Chhutki was given a temporary opening in her abdomen for stool and urine to pass – while her vagina healed. She was wrapped in bandages for many months after that.
"A hole was made in her stomach to help her relieve herself. This was rectified after two months. For one month, she struggled in pain. She used to relieve herself then we used to wipe that place, put an ointment and put a cover over the hole. This went on for one or two months. The doctors said that when she turns 17 or 18 she would need to undergo a third operation."Suresh, Chutki's Father
Will the parents be forced to tell Chutki what happened to her? They hope they will not need to.
"For now, she is young. She does not understand what happened with her. Even now if someone takes her and goes, she will not have any memory of where she went. If we move away when she is young, she will not know what happened to her. But if she grows older here, there are a lot of enemies here. They will tell her and we will not know what she is feeling about it. And so, I do not want her to know what happened to her."Geeta, Chutki's Mother
It has been almost 1350 days since the incident. The family – Chutki, her parents and her older sibling, have not felt safe since the day of the gruesome incident. They are living in fear – in their own home.