Why an AAP candidate’s involvement in a rape story gives me hope


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By Uma Sudhir

I have not been a voter in Delhi for several years now but if I were, no secret in whose favour I would press the EVM button. For all the hope-peaked-into-disappointment Anna story, tales about how very `aam’ even the Aam Aadmi Party has turned out to be, for all the cynicism and unfortunate mud-slinging at the Aam Aadmi Party, a very big part of me that refuses to be cynical, that refuses to give up, that hopes change will come in our lives, in our government and in our politics, can’t help but give myself this chance.

 

A senior journalist friend in Delhi pointed out that the party projecting itself as the `alternative’ is promising nothing different. So what hope for change can you expect, he argued. Yet, my only rationale is the other two mainstream political parties are two different-looking faces of the very same system, and have only disappointed us time and again. If I have a third choice that I am hoping will bring not just fresh faces, but fresh hope and new ideas. At least they are not seeped in the same muck yet. On that count at least, it will be a new beginning. Surely, unless we go down the road less travelled, we won’t find out?

 

There is another reason why I write this. Because I have known, for some years now, at least one young man contesting these elections, as someone worthy of my trust and faith. This was many years before Anna Hazare sat on his fast, before he along with Arvind Kejriwal and others lit fires of hope and change. I am referring to 34-year-old Saurabh Bharadwaj who is the AAP candidate from Greater Kailash constituency in Delhi. I met him in 2005, shortly after I had filed a series of reports for NDTV on a family fighting for justice after an 8-year-old child was sexually assaulted and raped by a relative. 

 

The story: the father was a visually challenged bhajan singer, who travelled around the country, along with his wife, to earn his living. The couple had left two of their children, at the father’s sister’s place in Yavatmal, Maharashtra, so they could go to a regular school. The sister’s brother-in-law had access to the child and sexually assaulted her, while sending away her brother to run errands. The children came home for their summer holidays and that is when the mother noticed that all was not well with her daughter. The child was withdrawn, would not jump around and play like she used to and even walked a little awkwardly and complained of discomfort. They were shocked and shattered and went to the police station but the police would not even file an FIR. That’s when they walked into my office and I accompanied them to the police station to file the FIR and arranged for counsellors to meet the child and family.

 

But the challenges in their fight for justice had only just begun. They faced hostility from extended family, ostracism and ridicule from immediate social circle, delays and bureaucratic red tape. The case was first transferred to Yavatmal, from Hyderabad, because the crime was committed there. From medical examination reports to court appearances to handling insensitive men in khaki to disinterested men in black robes.

 

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That is where Saurabh came in. He was a 26-year-old, working as a software engineer in Hyderabad and had come across the report on NDTV. Some viewers, touched by stories often do write in, express support and may even send some financial help to someone in need. I often feel reassured by the empathy, sensitivity and involvement of people. That they can feel the pain of others in dire straits and have a generous heart to come forward and offer help, with no expectation of any recognition for a good deed.

 

But Saurabh went beyond that. He gave his time and very soon got actively involved in the family’s fight for justice. Not for days, or weeks, or months, but for years. He accompanied the visually challenged father to hospitals, police stations and court rooms, to chase documents, file RTI, get legal counsel. He even got the father to file a case in the State Human Rights Commission. If the father was resolute in not wanting to “compromise” and accept a monetary compensation for the wrong his daughter suffered, despite all the frustrations he faced, I believe at least some credit for that would go to Saurabh.

 

The good news was that nearly five years later, the accused was found guilty by the sessions court. It was a victory for justice and for Saurabh’s efforts and of course, the family’s steadfast and determined fight for justice. The accused challenged it in the High Court and sadly, it was overturned. With Saurabh’s help, the case is now in the Supreme Court.

 

I was following up on this 8-year fight for justice of a rape victim again after the Nirbhaya incident. That is when I again met Saurabh. He informed me that the reason the High Court had rejected the sessions court verdict was because of lapses in investigation and collection of evidence. Something as basic as medical examination report not being presented as evidence. No accountability of investigating officials and so on. In trying to help people like this family, he had assiduously learnt the technicalities of the law and its workings and failings and spoke passionately about the changes needed to help rape victims get justice.

 

I am sure as a young man, pursuing a busy career, travelling within the country and abroad, he could have chosen to do other things, perhaps more fun and entertaining, but he chose to use his valuable time to fight the battle standing along with the family.  That commitment, resolute faith in the fight for justice, to me is a test of persistence and character. Because it shows to me a commitment to live and fight for values and integrity, within the system.

 

That is the reason for my wanting to repose faith in this young man, who is the AAP candidate for GK in these elections in Delhi.

 

(Uma Sudhir’s Twitter handle is @umasudhir)

 

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