Victims, families and activists happy over verdict but upset over “inadequate compensation”
The excruciating wait for justice was nearly two decades long for the people of Vachathi, a tribal hamlet in Pappireddipatti taluk, 50 km away from Dharmapuri and 16 km from Harur. Jubilation was writ large on the faces of the victims and their family members, as the final verdict of the trial court came. Some of them broke down on hearing the verdict.
‘I was just 13 then when dragged me by the hair, abused me in foul language and raped me on the bund of a lake,” recalled a victim, now 33 years old, who came to the court premises with her husband and children to watch justice being meted out.
“When I pleaded that I was a small girl studying eighth standard, the men in khaki responded saying ‘Being a girl is enough'. I was waiting with bated breath for the 19 years hoping that the long arm of justice will not spare the offenders,” he said. Her entire family was happy as the verdict, she said, came as a healing balm after barbaric acts had pushed them to the edge of their lives.
“Though it was done by men in the lower ranks, the officials were in the know of the whole incident and watched everything from a distance and it all happened with their sanction."
Paranthayi, a woman in her late 30s, said her 16-year-old daughter (name withheld) was dragged and stripped right in front of her. The men forced their way into the house showering choicest abuses. “My daughter who was taken away by 2.45 p.m. was brought back only at 9 p.m., only to be taken to the forest office at night. She has managed to survive the trauma and is in court today with her husband and three children. Our only mistake is that we hail from a suppressed community," she said.
Reacting to the judgement, P. Shamugam, State president of the Tamil Nadu Tribals Association, said in this case the verdict made up for the long and agonising wait. The delay was primarily due to the lack of co-operation and dilatory tactics adopted by those who held high offices in government. Mr.Shanmugam said though Rs 1.25 crore had been disbursed as compensation in two phases, it was disappointing.
CPI(M) MLA P. Dilli Babu said the case and the verdict were historic. “The verdict has assuaged the hurt feelings of the victims. The efforts taken by Tribals Association, AIDWA and CPI(M) have not been in vain. With regard to higher compensation for the victims of rape and those who lost their property and livelihood, CPI (M) will fight legally,” he said.
S. Chrisa Mary, president of the Dharmapuri District Unit of the All India Democratic Women's Association (AIDWA), said: “It is a victory for the poor and the suppressed, and a befitting lesson to the bureaucracy and the Government.”
D.S. Kavitha, AIDWA Dharmapuri unit secretary, said the compensation of Rs 15,000 each to the 18 victims of rape is inadequate and AIDWA will fight for getting it enhanced.
Keywords: Vachathi case