A matter of revenge

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A Hindu girl was brutally gang-raped as reprisal for her uncles’ refusal to abandon Christianity, reports Rohini Mohan

SHE WOULD first like to choose a name for herself, she says. “Devika is a good name.” She has been on the run for almost ten months, living in havens that never seem safe enough. Devika has not returned to her village in Kandhamal since the 2008 riots when Hindu groups like the VHP and the RSS had allegedly led widespread violence in the district against Christians. But there were those like Devika, a Hindu girl, who were just in the wrong place at the wrong time. One September night, Devika visited her grandmother in Galdingya village. That night, she was gang-raped by five men.

Two of Devika’s uncles were Christians but Devika and her parents were Hindu. Christians in Kandhamal were threatened that if they did not convert to Hinduism, they would be attacked and their houses burnt. “My uncles refused to convert because their houses had already been burnt,” says Devika, “They had already been beaten and looted, so they didn’t see why they had to abandon their religion as well.” On the night of September 19, 2008, a raging mob of VHP cadres roamed in search of “adamant Christians”. They found none — and then they came to Devika’s grandparents’ house.

Devika: ‘If they are arrested,  I will feel better.  If they hang, I will be really happy’

“Fourteen men burst into the house,” says Devika, who recognised almost all of them. One looked at her and said, “We are here to take revenge on your uncle. You have to pay the price.” Five men then carried Devika out of the house and into the nearby forest. Everyone in the village watched mutely. “I was screaming for help,” says Devika, not taking her eyes off the floor, “They said ‘No one is going to help you’. I looked up and realised they were right.” For three hours, the five raped her, threatening her with death. “I stopped screaming after a while. I was sure I would die.” Later, her grandfather found her, bleeding and “half dead”.

The next morning, Devika left for the relief camp in Tikavali with her grandparents. At 11 am, they went to Tikavali police station and filed an FIR against her five rapists. She knew the names and villages of every one of her rapists. A medical report confirmed rape. One accused, Manoj Pradhan of Galdingya, was arrested that day and is in G Udaigiri jail. Four others — Babula Pradhan, Ranga Pradhan, Nonga Pradhan, and Tunna Pradhan — are still at large.

Devika now works as a cook in a school near Bhubaneswar. “I have nightmares of being carried, screaming, floating in the air through the night,” says Devika. “If they are arrested, I will feel better. I will feel less scared.” Then oddly, she smiles. “If these disgusting men are hanged, only then will I can be really happy.”

 

 

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