About five months since the Unnao rape survivor Chaya* and her lawyer Mahendra were admitted to AIIMS after a head-on collision with a truck, the lawyer's family is yet to know if he recognises them.
With the verdict in the Unnao rape survivor's case expected to be announced by a special court on 16 December, The Quint spoke to the family of the survivor’s lawyer.
While the Unnao rape survivor has been discharged on gaining mobility and appetite, her lawyer has had a rocky path to recovery.
The Case Against Former BJP MLA Sengar
In June 2017, the Unnao rape survivor, then 17 years old, alleged that she was kidnapped and gang-raped for more than a week by then BJP MLA Kuldeep Singh Sengar, his brother Atul Singh and others. Despite their efforts to file a complaint, the police did not name Sengar in the charge sheet – the prime accused in the case.
Sengar’s men would regularly threaten Chaya’s father. In April 2018, the survivor’s father was brutally beaten up after being tied to a tree in their village allegedly by Sengar’s men. Despite filing a complaint, to his utter shock and dismay the UP police arrested him instead of Sengar, alleging he possessed firearms. Days later, he died in police custody allegedly due to police brutality. After this, the UP police booked his brother (rape survivor’s uncle) for thrashing the BJP MLA’s brother In November 2018.
Having witnessed both her sons get dragged to prison, their distressed mother succumbed to her illness in February 2019.
Over time, the survivor’s family began relying on their uncle who was convicted in a 19-year-old murder case and jailed in Raebareli in July 2019. Since then, the family started taking regular trips to meet him.
On one such trip, the survivor with her lawyer, Mahendra, and a couple of her aunts met a tragic fate after a truck rammed into their car. While both her aunts died on the spot on 28 July, the survivor and her lawyer were admitted at Delhi’s AIIMS with serious injuries. However, while the survivor recuperated well, her lawyer is far from gaining back all his faculties.
'My Brother Cannot Talk'
"Ab bhai ka kuch sudhaar hai. Vo aankh khol rahain hai, haath pair hila rahain hai. Abhi bol nahi pa rahain hai (Now my brother is doing better. He has opened his eyes after three months and is moving his arms a little. But he is unable to talk)," Balendra Singh, Mahendra's younger brother, says.
Mahendra is still in Delhi's AIIMS while his parents, elder son and wife watch over him. Singh says that the government is taking care of his medical expenses as well as the lodging and food for the family. Through them, he is able to see his brother on a video call.
"Aankh kholke dekhte toh hai lekin kaise bataye ki humein pehchaante hai ya nahi. Pata nahi. Maan lo jab tak awaaz na nikli, tab tak kaise yakeen se kehde ki humein pehchaante hai (He opens his eyes and looks at me, but how can I say that he recognises me? I do not know. Only when he begins to speak will I be certain that he can recognise us).
"He has sustained injuries on both legs, right hand, his ribs, and at the rear portion of his head," Singh continues with cautious optimism about his brother's health, lowering his voice to add how he saw him break down. "Beech mein ek do baar, aankh se aansoon nikalte hai, toh isse lagta hai ki shayad takleef main hai (Often I have seen tears roll down his cheek so I wonder what pain he is going through)."
Mahendra’s assistant, Vimal, who comes to Delhi from Unnao often to visit him told The Quint, “I do not think he has recovered completely. Whenever he sees anyone he knows, he ends up crying. You can see he is in distress but through his expressions I am unsure if he recognises people around him.”
Security & Compensation
Right after the accident on 28 July, the lawyer's family was granted protection on the orders of the UP government. Since the first week of August, four CRPF personnel have been stationed outside their home.
"They provide us security. When we have security why should we have any problems at all?" Singh asks, rather naively.
Mahendra's wife was given Rs 5 lakh by the UP government as well.
Long Road to Recovery
"We were so scared in those months. Grateful he opened his eyes," Singh says, adding that the doctors are saying he will recover but it will take time. Mahendra cannot communicate yet as he cannot write, talk or gesticulate.
"He is administered food through pipes – milk, juice, and water. He cannot eat solid food yet," Singh says.
Because of the sudden turn of events after 28 July, Singh has had to step up and take care of the entire family. "All the responsibility is on me now. Have to see everything including taking care of his younger son who is in Kanpur. Have to look at the farming, finances, house and everything," he says with a modest smile.
Indifferent to the court verdict on 16 December, he says "It’s the court's verdict, what can we say? We don't know who was behind this accident. All we care about is for my brother to recover completely. And that looks far-fetched."
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