“Mom, please protect our honour. Why did you leave us in this hell? Do you know what is happening to us? Please give us strength to eliminate papa.”
This is one of several messages two sisters, nine and 11, scribbled on the wall of their house in Madhya Pradesh’s Dewas: a desperate cry for protection against their stepfather who abused the girls.
For five months, he sexually abused the elder sister and beat up the younger one, police said.
“He made several attempts to rape me but I foiled the bid by running away from home. But every time I had to return for my younger sister,” the elder girl told HT.
The 11-year-old started wearing five layers of clothing to stop the advances and complained to family members and neighbours – all to no avail.
As a last resort, they began scribbling messages on the outer wall of their shanty three weeks ago.
“My mother got married to my stepfather when I was 3-year-old. He used to scold us in front of the mother but everything was fine. But trouble began when she died.”
A passerby saw the inscription and called a local NGO, Childline. The girls were rescued on Wednesday and the stepfather–who couldn’t read the messages as he is illiterate–has been arrested.
The abuse began after the girls’ mother passed away five months ago, when one day the stepfather walked into the house.
“You are going to have a relationship with someone in future anyway, what is harm in having a sexual relationship with me,” he told the elder sister, police said.
Over the next few weeks as the torture mounted, so did resistance from the two but there was nobody to listen to them. They lived with the father and his mother.
The elder sister started wearing five layers of clothing and fastened a dupatta over it tightly so that the stepfather didn’t succeed in the first attempt, giving the girls enough time to put up a fight, police said.
They talked to their step-grandmother but she didn’t pay much attention. The elder sister shared her ordeal with relatives and neighbours but when nobody came to the rescue, the girls took the extraordinary step of penning their trauma on the outer wall of the house.
“My mother got married to my stepfather when I was 3-year-old. He used to scold us in front of the mother but everything was fine. But trouble began when she died,” the elder sister told HT.
The mother was a frequent mention in the messages as well. “Mom, we are incomplete without you. Please come to us, we miss you very much,” read one scribble.
Childline’s Dewas coordinator Jaypal Deveda said the father stopped sending the girls to school so that they couldn’t tell anybody about the crime. They were being made to work in a nearby forest.
“When the girl was sharing her trauma, she broke down in tears repeatedly. We took her to the police station and registered a case against her stepfather,” said Deveda.
The girls have been admitted to a hostel in the district but childcare workers say neighbours and the local panchayat should have stepped in much earlier to mitigate their trauma.
“Madhya Pradesh has earned a bad name in crimes against children and women. It’s not only the duty of police and activists to fight for the justice of girls, other departments and members of civil society should also play active role,” said child rights activist Archana Sahay.