Bhanwari Devi checks in at the homestay for International Women’s Day function

Morning Mist, the Padil ‘homestay’ where a group of young men and women were attacked by rightwing vigilantes last July, will become a hub for women activism and causes.

The mission starts with Bhanwari Devi’s stay at the ‘homestay’. Bhanwari Devi’s gang rape in 1992 and the subsequent court cases, culminated in the Supreme Court defining sexual harassment at workplace, and issuing preventive measures and redress mechanism. The judgement is popularly known as Vishaka Judgment.

“She (Bhanwari Devi) is my guest and I am honoured to have her here,” Loretta Rebello, owner of the ‘homestay’, told The Hindu on Thursday. She said that activists working on women-related issues would be welcome there. “This is going to be a hub for women activists,” she said.

Bhanwari Devi is in the city to attend a meeting on International Women’s Day on Friday. Looking down the balcony from where one of the girls (in the homestay attack incident) jumped in an attempt to escape from the goons, Bhanwari said they must be hanged as a deterrent.

Recalling her case, she said, “The entire village was against me… I, too, had thoughts of jumping into the water and ending my life but there was my battle to fight.” The government must ensure the safety of every girl and woman. “If it does not provide safety, women must not cast their vote,” she said.

After the Delhi gangrape incident, however, she said she was happy to see that women have started protesting against violence. “Ladaai toh shuru kari. (At least they are speaking up now.) Otherwise, how will the world get to know if they keep suffering quietly,” she said.

A “saathin” of Women’s Development Project (WDP) of the government of Rajasthan, who raised her voice against child marriages during “Akha Teej”, she was raped by five upper-caste men of her village 20 years ago.

Though she appreciated the court judgment in her case, she said that was yet to get justice on earth. Of the two men who had raped her (and three others who had held her down), two were dead. “I need to know that the guilty are punished so I can go in peace,” she said.

Still seeking justice

Two decades after the violence she suffered, she continues to work as “saathin”, educating people about the ills of child marriage and dowry. But the villagers in Bhateri, where the incident happened, are still hostile towards her and she lives in fear that the perpetrators of the crime can still take revenge any time. But she will not leave the village because she believes only thieves flee a place, she said. .

When told about the award from the US government for the Delhi rape victim, she said awards given posthumously were useless “Insaan toh gayo naa?” she said.

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