For a full ten days after she was abducted and raped by a group of men, the teenager told no-one, terrified by the men’s threats and their claim that they would distribute photographs they had taken during the attack.
When she did eventually tell her mother, things got even worse; her father, a gardener, unable to bear the trauma of what had happened to his daughter and the indignity of such photographs being passed around, swallowed pesticide.
In the following days, police arrested and charged seven men, all members of a higher caste. But the response to what took place by certain elements of society – a suggestion that the age of marriage should be be lowered to reduce rapes, and that such attacks were triggered by eating ‘Western’ fast-food – sparked both a wave of anger and a debate about India’s attitudes towards women that has gripped the country
Today, the 16-year-old sits with her hands quietly folded on the edge of a bed in a relative’s house, reaching for courage amid this bewildering storm. She says she is determined to obtain justice. “It’s not just about me. Things have been happening in other villages,” she said.