Busy watching cartoons in her one-bedroom house in one of the city’s southern sectors, Siya’s favourite hobby might not have changed in the past one year, but a lot has.
It was on July 14 last year that the then 10-year-old was found pregnant on being taken to hospital. The very next day her distant maternal uncle was arrested for raping her. Later, his brother was also held for the crime. Siya (name changed) had been raped for over seven months. She later gave birth to a girl in August.
First-of-its-kind for Chandigarh Police, nerve-racking for the medical fraternity and a trigger for the Supreme Court to direct states to ensure speedy justice, Siya’s case made national headlines when her abortion plea was rejected.
Also read | Cop and 10-year-old rape survivor, both pregnant, share a special bond
Takes active part in class discussions
It has not been an easy year for this minor rape survivor since then. However, sitting on the bed with her, Siya’s elder sister says things are gradually getting better. Protective when one tries to speak to Siya, she intervenes: “Pehle school nahi gayi thodi der, ab jaati hai (earlier she didn’t go to school, but has started attending it now).”
Now 11-year-old, Siya didn’t go to school for a few months after the delivery and had to miss her mid-term exams in December last year. However, she just about managed to pass Class 6, her teachers tell us.
“The students didn’t enquire about it, but the staff was aware of the incident since she had fainted in the school once,” says her class teacher at a government school in Chandigarh, adding that Siya was very conscious of her surroundings initially. “She would often look up while writing in her notebook to check if the teacher was looking at her or if other students were staring at her.”
Siya’s grades might have gone down, yet she actively participates in class discussions ever since she got promoted to Class 7. But she often looks for excuses to meet her sister, who studies in the same school.
The school principal had even suggested to Siya’s parents to get her admitted to another school to prevent any stigma, but her father pleaded against this. The principal says she felt guilty for making the suggestion and agreed to let Siya continue in the school.
Counselling sessions have ended
Meanwhile, Siya’s counseling under the aegis of child welfare committee (CWC) has stopped. However, the school counsellor meets her every now and then.
While the CWC chief Sangita Vardhan was not willing to comment citing the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act guidelines, sources say Siya’s mental wellness showed progress and ultimately it was decided that the counsellors will be made available as and when required.
However, the 11-year-old and her family continue to be provided police protection. A guard is deputed at a distance from the house and also stands outside her school till she returns home in an auto with her sister.
Investigating officer Pratibha, who shared an emotional connect with Siya as even she was pregnant when the case came to light, says: “We keep a tab.”
The legal services authority had awarded ₹15 lakh compensation to the girl. Mahavir Singh, member secretary of the state authority, says the girl’s father is keen to move out of their present accommodation once he is allotted another house by the electricity department, of which he is an employee.
Families not on talking terms
The father, meanwhile, still gets shivers at the very mention of the incident. A gardener who works in the neighbourhood says he screams at his girls if they let someone in the house in his absence. The two maternal uncles used to rape the girl when her parents were out for work and the sister was at her tuitions.
Family of the younger uncle, whose DNA matched with that of the baby, continues to reside in the same neighbourhood. However, the two families don’t socialise with each other anymore. “Hum na dekhte unki taraf. Koi baat nahi karta ab (We don’t look at them or talk to them),” says Siya’s sister, as the 11-year-old continues to watch ‘The Flintstones’ on the television.
But the biggest elephant in the room remains the baby she gave birth to, about which no one dares to talk. The baby had been put up for adoption.
Meanwhile, the two uncles are facing life term while lodged in the Burail jail. They have filed an appeal before the Punjab and Haryana high court while Siya’s father moved an application before the state legal services authority (SLSA) stating that they want the decision to be upheld.
While the wife of the main convict continues to be in disbelief and is trying to meet the two ends meet and support her son, the elder uncle’s family continues to live in Nepal, away from the ignominy.
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