The criminal roams freely, and I even set eyes on him at times, since we live in the same area. So, you tell me, is there a way for me to celebrate Mother’s Day? How do I keep my mad heart still, when my soul and body have been restlessly roaming the streets day and night? I am requesting anyone and everyone to help me for the piece of my heart that was ripped away.
My name is Rani, and I am the mother of Neevi. Neevi isn’t alive anymore, but I can still hear her. At times, I can hear her screams, ‘Mother, please save me!’ – these shrieks torture me at night and it seems like they live inside my ears. Even though it was not I who heard these screams that black night; he must have heard them though, that monster who took away my Neevi, raped and killed her.
I have lived with my family for the past 20 years in Karwi; we are tenants of Lakshmi Prasad Gupta who also lives there and runs a grocery store alongwith his son Raja. I have four daughters and a son. It was the night of January 14, 2017 and I can never forget it – it was the night she went missing. My husband and I work late into the night, washing vessels at wedding parties and that night too, we were working late. I had instructed the children to eat their food and go to bed. How was I to know this would be a sleep Neevi would never awake from?
When we returned home that night, Neevi wasn’t there. My children told me that she’d gone to uncle’s house (Lakshmi Prasad), to watch TV, which was something she did off and on, but she never stayed so late. I went to check, and Raja told me that she hadn’t come at all. I was a bit suspicious, and asked again, but he told me to go away. I spent the night hunting for Neevi, but I couldn’t find her. In the wee hours of the morning, Raja barged into our house saying, ‘Neevi’s dead body has been found in a sack’. I ran to the crossroads at the market, but was told the police had already taken her away, to the postmortem. I went there and pleaded with them, ‘Please let me see my Neevi. Just one last time.’ I could see her legs hanging out of the sack, but I still couldn’t believe it was her.
It was. When they finally showed me the body, I was devastated. She had bite marks all over her body.
I knew in that instant that it was Raja who had done this.
What had she ever done to him, that he tortured her so? And what kind of a human being is he that he came to tell me himself?
Since January 14, 2017, I have been trying to get a hearing from the police and authorities. I would leave my other children home and spend my days at the thana. I met the C.O., I met the S.P., I was practically living at the kotwali, but I would always be told the same thing, ‘Not today, come tomorrow’. Months went by like this.
It was then that I decided to seek the help of women’s rights organizations and journalists. Under pressure from them, the police finally took some action and arrested Raja, confirming my suspicions. His family started visiting me frequently after that – asking me to negotiate with them, take some money and drop the fight. We had moved out of that house by then. But what would I do with money? I stayed firm, drawing courage from my own conviction that what happened to my daughter should never happen to anyone else again.
But then Raja was released from jail, after doing four months of time. They said he got out on bail, but shouldn’t he go through a trial, shouldn’t he be punished? And so I am back to doing my rounds of police stations once again.
I am also anxious now. If they can buy Raja’s freedom, maybe the family can do more. My family has no security, and when I go to work, I am always worried about my children back home. All the police says is that Raja has endured the punishment he was meant for, but what does that mean? What kind of justice is this? Is this a democracy?
Neevi’s memories haunt me every second. She was an innocent little girl, always obedient. She was always good at her studies, but unfortunately, we couldn’t afford to send her to school after Class II – it is something I regret. But for her life to be snuffed away so, who could’ve ever imagined that? A mother never can.
The criminal should pay for his crime, his sins. The system of law cannot fail us here. I know I can never get back my Neevi, but in her memory, I should be able to do at least this much – be able to send her rapist, her murderer, to prison.
They tell me it’s Mother’s Day today. Would it be possible for a mother to have this wish of hers fulfilled?
(Neevi was a 14-year-old girl, a resident of Bachran village in Karwi, Chitrakoot. On January 14, 2017, she was brutally raped and murdered. Her mother, Rani has been fighting to have justice served since January 15, 2017. On March 19, 2018, Khabar Lahariya had organized a Bundelkhand Baithak, wherein public grievances were put forth to the locally elected representatives. Rani had appealed for her case at the baithak, but was told by the residing M.L.A. from Mau-Manikpur R.K. Patel that he can only hear about wrongdoings that were committed since March 2017, i.e. when the BJP was voted into power at the state. Rani has since been compensated under the Rani Lakshmibai Mahila Samman Kosh, for the sum of 10 lakhs).
Co-published exclusively with Firstpost.