Me: “Yes, He was wearing a white half-shirt with checks and dark-blue denim jeans.”
Lawyer: “Are you sure that you remember this exactly?”
Me (controlling my rising frustration): “Yes, I am 100% sure and my statements will not change by you repeating the question again and again or framing it in a different way.”
Lawyer (with a shrewd smile on his face): “So, Mam can you please repeat your account of the events that followed? Please describe the fine details as well for the court to understand properly.”
He emphasized the word “details”. I looked at his dirty face with betel-stained teeth peeking from his mouth and eyes filled with slyness daring me to speak the truth. He knew that the truth if spoken out in public will not be good for the image of an Indian woman and defy the social norms laid down for women which require us to be shy and tolerate everything; to obey the so called men in our lives like a cow. Sadly, the lawyer didn’t know the material my heart was made of; it was pure steel which remains free from rust and vague attempts to weaken the strength of its resolve. I took a deep breath and recalled the incident which had haunted me for the past 15 years. The society had played its part well by ensuring that it occupied a centre-stage in my mind. It helped me in revisiting each and every detail of the incident. I didn’t want opposition to give an edge by finding even a slightest change in my narrative and hence prove that I am just a slut accusing a respectable man of horrible deeds. So, for the hundredth time in my life I spoke the events of that night as they simultaneously unfolded before my eyes.
Me: “As I said I had gone to bed early after a tiring day at work. My roomie was out of town to attend a conference. I was woken from my sleep by the sound of falling keys on the floor which was followed by cautious turning of the door-knob. By the time I could made sense of what is happening, it was too late. The security guard of my apartment had already entered my bed-room with the spare key he possessed and threatened to cut me with the big knife which he had planted on my neck. He tied my hands and mouth and tore all my clothes. His drunken eyes sparkled with lust as he moved the cold steel of the knife against my bare body. With a monstrous laugh, he removed his jeans and began his adventures on my body. To start with, he made several marks with the knife on my thighs and chest; thoroughly enjoying the sight of my face twitch with pain. I could feel the tears roll down my hot cheeks; the tears of pleading, helplessness and pain which later turned into tears of anger and contempt. He came inside me multiple times and with varying intensity and postures. When he was exhausted, he would pull my hair and kick me with his dirty shoes. I saw the hands of the clock move from 10:20pm to 11:45pm while he feasted on my body and soul. Eventually, he got bored and stared directly in my eyes. I watched him with burning rage and defiance which challenged his male-ego. For a moment, he seemed afraid but soon started laughing uncontrollably. Then he somehow managed to lift his drunken body on his limbs, put on his clothes and move out of my flat before imparting a heavy blow on my face and spatting on my body. I couldn’t believe this has happened to me. My body was covered in blood and I was in extreme pain. I somehow mustered courage to go to the nearest police station and report the incident.”
The defence lawyer was searching for tears in my eyes after this rendition, but when he couldn’t locate any hint of moisture around my eyes, he became a bit disappointed and irritated. He cleared his throat and said, “Sorry to interrupt you Prof. Manju Singh, I just wanted to clear a few points before you proceed further. Are these the under-garments which you were wearing on the day of the crime?”
He picked up my bra and panty with a stick and hoisted it like a flag for the whole world to see. People in the court started smirking and women covered their eyes with shame. Some of the men couldn’t suppress their laughter and it came out loud to reach my ears. Unaffected by the commotion in the courtroom, I replied, “Yes, these were the under-garments which I was wearing the day I was raped”.
My firm response shocked the defence lawyer and the crowd. It was clear that he had not expected me to be so bold and shameless. Anyways, seeing his mental tactic of humiliating me getting failed, he said, “You told us that my client had torn your clothes including your under-garments, but the only fingerprints found on them were yours. This suggests that you took them off yourself with full consent of yours. Am I right?”
I wanted to grab the throat of the lawyer and strangle him to death. Controlling my rising adrenaline and rapid heartbeat, I decided to play rather cool. I smiled and answered firmly, “You were not listening to my statements properly. I never said he tore them by hand, he used his knife to tear them off, and you can clearly see the signs of cuts made by a sharp object on the fabric. Now if you allow me, I want to complete my narrative without any interruption.” The lawyer went speechless and sat down after passing a couple of mental curses to me.
Me: “I went to the nearest police station located in INA and registered an FIR. I need to mention here that the police were very understanding and co-operative. They immediately rushed me to Safdarjung hospital to get my physical examination done. But destiny was not done with me yet. It was in the hospital that I got raped the second time in one day. The main doctor with a group of six students gathered around me. My vagina became a specimen for him to teach his students the art of performing the two-finger test (This test is done by forensic doctors to check the laxity of the vagina of the rape victims to determine the past intercourse history of the victim. It is extremely painful and unnecessary and was used by the defence lawyer to do a character assassination of rape victim in the court thereby influencing the punishment given to the culprit. It has been banned now by the Supreme Court of India. For more details see this).This was followed by each of the students taking turns on my vagina to see if they have perfected the test or not. I couldn’t tolerate the extreme pain and became unconscious. I was discharged from the hospital the next day and returned back to my home. Since then I have been coming to the court repeatedly for the past 15 years to seek justice. The culprit was arrested immediately and was then released on bail. He got married and now is living happily with his family. I have also moved on with my life and done well both professionally and personally. People advised me to give up fighting the case. But each day when I go to bed, my thoughts remain convoluted with the images of that unfortunate night and I can’t live with the thought that the beast who did this to me is enjoying a sound sleep. This is what keeps me driving and I will remain to fight until I seek justice.”
It was a pleasant morning. The dew drops on the tree leaves sparked like pearls when the sun rays hit them at weird angles, somehow forming a sight that did wonders to the eye. Squirrels roamed freely; occasionally picking up a fight with the birds on the ground and then quickly running to hide within the bark of the tree. I thought about the innocent yet deceptive beauty of mother nature. It remains totally unaffected by our thoughts, our pains, our happiness, our desires. For her the death of a mighty elephant is equal to the death of a tiny bacteria because all of them are born out of it and later merge into it. People have spent ages to find the true meaning of life. The more you think about it, the more you get confused. In my opinion, the true meaning of life is that it has no meaning at all. My philosophical train of thoughts was halted by the sound coming out of my idiot box. “In a historic judgement, the Supreme Court of India has awarded life imprisonment to the culprit accused in the case concerning the rape of 45 year old Manju Singh, a Professor of Political Science at JNU. She was raped while she was sleeping in her Green Park based flat fifteen years ago. Let us ask her about her feelings and experiences while dealing with this long case”. With this the camera shifted towards my face.
Me: “To be honest, when I heard about rape incidents happening to other women, I dismissed them as mere news articles. I was never able to empathize with the victim and understand the graveness of the crime. But when it happened to me I could feel the pain and anger rising within me. For the first few months after the incident, it seemed that every single leaf on the trees, every brick in the building and every pair of eye in the world had been witness to the act that happened to me. I lay naked before the world to see and make fun of. I couldn’t face the students whom I taught. There were murmurs through the class-rooms I went in, the hallways I passed, the elevators I stepped in. I just wanted to hide myself from the world and used to cry horribly. I wish I would die soon and put an end to the shameful and embarrassing life which lay ahead of me. But then I thought that what is the charm in living if one choses the easy way out at each stage? Besides, I can’t let that monster roam freely and destroy someone else’s life. I am suffering without any fault of mine. I haven’t done anything wrong. Clearly, it should be the other way round. He will have to pay for this. Then one fine day I woke up and decided to shed my veil of shame and accept all the challenges that life decided to throw on my face. I witnessed that as my attitude towards myself changed, the people around me also started respecting me as a human and got inspired by me. I fought for a cause and I am very happy that I have achieved it, though with some delay. I urge every girl, every boy, every woman and every man who has suffered sexually to come forward and speak openly. Rape is not the end of life. Don’t think less of yourself if you are raped. Just go ahead and knock the world until it comes down at your feet; for you owe this for the fighter in you.”
P.S. This story is a fictional account of the true events described in Satyamev Jayate (Click here to watch the full episode). Rape is a serious crime. By the time you read this story, a minimum of three girls have been raped worldwide. Lets join hands in putting an end to this grave crime and build a better world where women are respected.