“The past 17 years were like hell. We were ostracised by our dear and near ones. Our two girls withdrew from the outside world and confined themselves to the house. They have not attended a single family function all these years. They don’t even go to the church,” said theSuryanelli case victim’s father, a retired Postal Department employee.

“For the younger one [the victim] the world was confined to her office and home. She is not even interested in TV.” He, along with his nurse-wife and daughters, had been living at Suryanelli, a plantation village near Munnar, in 2005 when tragedy struck. The 16-year-old-girl was lured by a bus conductor and later sexually assaulted by 42 people for 40 days. The world was never the same again. The family later moved to its present accommodation near Kottayam town.

On hearing the Supreme Court verdict, the parents were both relieved and apprehensive. “The truth is with us. This gives us confidence that justice will be done.” But the prospect of the case reopening in the High Court gives the father the jitters. “They will use all their might — their political might,” he said, referring to the accused.

“Only we know what we went through when the case was in the trial court,” said the mother. The family is also concerned that the relative anonymity it had during the long interval will be lost when the case reopens. “I don’t know how long my daughter will have to suffer the public gaze,” the father said. On Thursday, his only request to the media was not to disturb the girl, who had gone to her office. The worst period was when the girl, a Class IV employee in the Commercial Taxes Department, a job given by the government, was implicated by two of her officers in a case of fraud. She was denied bail for six days and kept away from office for nine months, he said. She was reinstated only after women activist groups and the media brought her victimisation to light.

“In spite of the depressing attitude of our relatives and a section of the public, I have a lot of people to thank,” he said. “Opposition Leader V.S. Achuthanandan has been with us from Day One. Then, there are the advocates, women activists and a number of good souls who stood by us during the nightmarish years.”

He said: “I think the case would have been delayed further had the Delhi gang rape not occurred.”

“I have gone all the way to Kohima to see the martyrs’ cemetery. I sometimes think these girls [victims, including his daughter] are like the martyrs who have laid down their lives so that their sisters could live peacefully today. They have lost their lives. But unless justice is done, their suffering will become meaningless.”

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