‘She wanted to become doctor’, Sohan lal @ Badaun
The situation will not normalise for Sohan Lal, a farmer who says he is around 50 years old and has lived in the village all his life. At dawn last Wednesday he found his daughter and her cousin hanging from the tree. Talking to the Observer in the family’s earthen-walled house, he pointed to the mud stove where his youngest daughter, who cannot be named under an Indian law to protect rape victims from social stigma, used to cook dinner when she returned from the village school. “She was always studying and working. That’s what she liked best. She wanted to be a doctor,” he said.
Neighbours confirmed the picture of an earnest, modest young woman. “She was very quiet and never in trouble,’ said Narendra Kumar, 21. “Some boys and girls around here exchange texts and so on, though we can’t really meet in the open much. But she didn’t.”
Her best friend was her cousin. On Tuesday night the pair set off into the fields just after dusk. Few Indian villages have proper sanitation, so half the country’s population use fields instead. For women this poses particular problems, as strict traditions on modesty mean they can only go in the dark. This leaves them vulnerable to harassment.
A further factor put the two teenagers in greater danger. Katra Sadatgunj is a Dalit village, meaning it is home to a community from the lowest ranks of the Indian “caste” hierarchy. Dalits, formerly known as “untouchables”, still face systematic discrimination across India. Though in urban areas “caste” identities are weakening, they are still strong in rural areas and particularly in northern parts of the country.
Filed under: dalit atrocity | 1 Comment
Tags: Badaun Atrocity, Katra Sadatgunj