“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 the Suryanelli 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 watching 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.

With the Supreme Court verdict, the family of the victim is relieved. But it fears the political might of the accused.