Video Editor: Kunal Mehra
Camera: Abhay Sharma
Camera Assistant: Shiv Kumar Maurya
Chhoti Nirbhaya has long since ceased to be just a story. For me, over the course of two years – that seem like much, much longer – she has become a friend. One that chirrups and chirps, that insists on being taken to a movie and that always asks – when I go to visit – when I’ll be back.
None of that changes the horrific fact that a little over two years ago, my six-year-old friend (then 4) was raped and brutalised by a man she called Rahul bhaiyya. Her ‘Rahul bhaiyya’ lured her with a plate of chowmein, led her to a pit along the railway tracks where she lives with her family and raped her. He also slashed her face with a blade and later, left her for dead.
Chhoti Nirbhaya found her way back to her mother, crawling on all fours, and related everything that had happened.
Today, her case continues in the court.
I’ll Leave This Place if He Ever Goes Free: Chhoti Nirbhaya’s Mother
In December 2015, less than two months since her rape, The Quint started a crowdfunding campaign to raise money for her immediate medical needs and for her future. A sum of Rs 5 lakh was raised – of which 4 lakh was stowed away into a fixed deposit, while the rest of the money took care of her surgeries for a month.
Today, Chhoti Nirbhaya – as we began to call her at the time – is doing much better, but her six-year-old memory hasn’t erased any demons.
She still mentions him (Chhoti Nirbhaya’s alleged rapist) at least once or twice a day. She hasn’t forgotten; every now and then, she’ll ask me – mummy, what did I do wrong? Maine aisa kya kiya tha ki mujhe uthake le gaya? (What did I do to that man to deserve being taken away?)Chhoti Nirbhaya’s Mother
The first hearing in her case was on 6 February 2016, and there have been several hearings since, which the little one’s grandfather has been attending. However, according to him, there have been no hearings since the last one 6 months ago.
Bahut time ho gaya hai – ab tak toh saza mil jani chahiye thi (It’s been a while – he should have been convicted by now. My fear is that the case will drag on for too long and he will go scot free.)Chhoti Nirbhaya’s Grandfather
The alleged rapist’s freedom is something that Chhoti Nirbhaya’s mother cannot bear the thought of; she has, in fact, decided that she will leave the cloistered little jhuggi where the family lives, if the man goes free. She avers fiercely:
I’ll take my kids and go live with my parents if he ever goes free. The thought that he is currently behind bars gives me relief; but if he were ever to roam free, I would not be able to live in these quarters.
Waiting For a Favourable Conclusion
One of the family’s major problems has been keeping track of the status of the case themselves. Even through my repeated visits and persistent scouring through their documents (which include dog-eared copies of FIRs and court summons), they can’t recall the name of the inspector in-charge or the name of the public prosecutor who is fighting their case.
When I assure Chhoti Nirbhaya’s grandfather that I will find out for him, he asks beseechingly – “Will you tell me when you do? Will you at least tell me her name?”
After a series of visits to Rohini District Court, I discover her in a POCSO (Protection of Children From Sexual Offences Act) courtroom and ask her about my little friend’s case. Assistant Public Prosecutor Raj Katariya does not want to speak on camera, but tells me she is certain the case will reach a favourable conclusion.
We’ve recorded all the important testimonies. The police, the family, the neighbours have all testified on the child’s behalf. Only the doctors’ testimonies remain.Raj Katariya, Assistant Public Prosecutor
While Katariya sounds hopeful, it is nothing compared to how my little friend’s grandfather reacts when I relay the message. He nods, looking far more reassured than I’ve seen him look in a while, and I am glad.
As for the little one herself, she is her most content self with her older sister (a year older than Chhoti Nirbhaya), who is her partner in crime and confidante. Through my visits, if I have become used to the slight squeeze of my palm as Chhoti Nirbhaya grasps it and drags me to the railway tracks where she insists I must play, the other hand is trustingly grabbed by her sister – the three of us an odd pair, running towards the fields like participants in a three-legged race.
We’ve resolved to continue visiting her each year, as reporters faithfully tracking a story, hopeful that justice will ultimately be done.
I have resolved, as a much older friend to a much younger one, to continue visiting her, trying in every little way to share the weight of a six-year-old’s pain.