BHOPAL: Dark has been her outer world since childhood. Her inner world has always been as bright as daylight, but a tragedy darkened that, too, on an April night in the lockdown.
Despite being visually challenged, the 53-year-old woman has always fought her way to success. Her husband was stranded in Rajasthan because of the lockdown that seemed to have struck the thoroughfares in Bhopal dead. She decided to have an early night, since she had scarcely had anything to do.
No sooner had she fallen into the arms of silken repose than a criminal slipped into her room. When the man tried to put a gag on her mouth, she woke up. She felt someone was trying to force himself on her. She could neither move, nor raise an alarm.
A terrific fear swirled in her body. It almost chilled her. The man put the gag on her mouth. He whispered, “Chup raho. Nahin to maar dalunga (Don’t shout. Or else, I’ll kill you).” All her efforts to wrench off the clutches of that beast failed. The criminal ran away after violating her. As soon as she came around, she began to cry for help.
Some of her neighbours ran towards her room and informed the police about it. A team led by the station house officer of Shahpura station, Chandrakant Patel, winged its way to the spot. The woman’s story wrenched Patel’s heart. He consoled her, saying, “That beast will be behind bars.”
It was, however, not easy to lay their hands on the culprit, due to lack of evidence, as the woman could not see him. Going to slums in search of the criminal was as perilous as embracing a live bomb because of the corona. Patel’s batchmate, Devendra Chandrawanshi, who was in Indore, had already fallen prey to the virus. His friend’s death saddened Patel.
Yet, Patel is as tough as nails. He says, “Initially, the efforts were just like a shot in the dark, since we were clueless.” Besides, the fright of corona was always there. As they launched a search operation, they wore PPE kits which they changed daily. Evidence continued to elude them. Many suspects were brought to the woman, but none of them was the man they were searching for.
Besides violating the woman, the criminal had made off with her mobile phone. The rapist removed the SIM card but did not destroy it. As a chum of the criminal installed the SIM card in his phone, the police team got an alert. That was the clue that the cops hit upon. A smile flashed across Patel’s face.
The team reached the Babanagar area from where he had got the alert. And they also came to know that the culprit had lived in that place. That was, however, declared a containment zone because of the pandemic. Questioning those suspects was difficult, as the police had to follow all the corona-protection norms.
The cops then rounded up a few suspects from Babanagar. The woman was requested to come to the police station to identify the criminal. Accompanied by her husband who had come from Rajasthan with the help of Bhopal police, she reached there. Both saw five suspects sitting on a bench. As soon as they entered the police station, all of them were told to utter one by one, “Chup raho, nahin to maar dalunga.”
As the first two persons rattled off the above sentence, the woman kept quiet. But, scarcely had the third man in the row uttered, ‘Chup... when the woman yelled at the man, “Gouge his eyes out. He had violated me.” The 25-year-old rapist was a hardened criminal who had been released from jail to check the spread of the pandemic in prison. He admitted to having committed the crime.
Now, a fast-track court is trying the case. The criminal may have to spend his life in jail. The woman smiled a sad smile.