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A girl with nowhere to hide

The 16-year-old who died on Tuesday did not set herself on fire after she was raped for the second time. She did so almost two months later, when she was suddenly “outed”.

The girl’s family had shifted from their Madhyamgram locality after the rape to a place near the airport, because they couldn’t bear more scrutiny. At their new address, they had remained unknown for some time till a person who happened to be an associate of the main accused, Chhotu, dropped in. Chhotu’s friend told the landlord of the girl’s “past”. She could not be nurtured in the bosom of a decent neighbourhood.

The landlord agreed. The girl’s family would have to go. She was the cynosure of the neighbourhood again. Everyone pointed a finger at her. Even the girl’s mother, breaking down under pressure, allegedly told her that she was the cause of all trouble.

It was when she could not bear being pointed out that she set herself on fire. Ten days later, she was dead, creating an outrage that she had not been able to in her brief, damaged life.By dying, she could prove that she had been there.

Who was she?

A normal teenager, who did the normal things that teenagers do.

Her family had migrated from Samastipur in Bihar a few months ago. Her father had found work as a taxi driver. He would be away the whole day and allegedly often come back home drunk.

The girl, an only child, made friends, among them Chhotu, who sold fish. He apparently felt that since she was “available”, she was available to his friends as well. So she was dragged away, raped by Chhotu and his friends and left in a field.

When she, accompanied by her father, lodged a police complaint the day after and were returning on a cycle van, Chhotu and his friends pounced on them and dragged her away. She was raped again in a taxi, then dragged to the rail tracks, presumably to be left bleeding till a train ran her over.

She suffered this much violence, and though it is not possible to know any more what thoughts crossed her head, she obviously had not given up hope of another life. She was trying to settle down in her new home, and was also apparently looking forward to getting admitted to school. She had studied up to Class VI.

But she was “found out” again. The family had already travelled so much — Samastipur, Madhyamgram, the airport area.Around her, there was not much to remind her that she had suffered the violence. Everything told her she deserved it.

Not so far from where she lived, in Kamduni six months ago, a girl returning from college was dragged by a group of men, raped and killed. In Madhyamgram, and in Rajarhat not far Kamduni, and the areas near the airport, development is on a high, construction booms and money and liquor flow easily, and instead of a para there is a floating community.

A girl who has stepped out, to go to a movie at a late hour, to go to college, needs to be punished. Rape is not enough. Death is brought sometimes by the men who punish her, sometimes by herself.