Field Notes: 'I Thought That Was The End Of Me'

Aparimita Pratap & Priyanka Prasanth

In one of our legal aid camps in March of this year, we met  S*, a 43-year-old woman from Delhi whose husband would get drunk and rape and beat her, something he had done for years while the police offered her no protection.

S told us that after waking up at five, she would finish the household chores and send her children to school. She would then go to four different houses, where she worked as a domestic worker to earn a living for her family, while her husband would wake up later in the day only to drink alcohol and gamble with his friends in the evening. 

By the time S would reach home at about six in the evening, her husband would be drunk and force himself on her, sometimes in front of their minor children. 

Any resistance would be met with ruthless slaps and kicks by her husband, who would also often grab anything in his sight and use that to assault her.

After getting to know her case, we initiated the process of providing legal assistance to her. 

The first step, filing a police complaint, is often the hardest in our experience. 

Despite her complaints alleging her husband had tried to kill her, the police constantly brushed it off as a “mere matrimonial dispute” without providing any protection to S. 

A couple of days later, in May 2023, we got a call from S. 

Her husband had attempted to strangle her and throw her in the river. Bystanders saved her. 

“I thought that was the end of me. He forced me into his rickshaw and went towards the river at full speed. I screamed, but he held my neck with one hand. Thankfully, a passerby called 112,” said S. 

A police officer told our paralegal volunteer (PLV) that no investigating officer had been appointed yet to act on the complaint.

No FIR was registered.  

One officer told the paralegal volunteer that “these are such small matters between a husband and wife. As a social worker, you should know better than to ruin a family”.

With no hope from the police, S was assisted by the judicial magistrate’s intervention and protection order. However, to S’s utter shock, her husband only seemed to have gotten more vengeful, and she was left unprotected even after the passage of the order. This vengeance was further triggered by S refusing to give him her salary anymore.  

He vowed to make things only more difficult for her. 

Within a week of the protection officer contacting the husband, S sent us several audio recordings of her husband making these threats and video recordings of the husband coming to her house drunk and trying to assault her. The PLV went with S to the police station again with much more evidence. 

Much to their utter shock and dismay, this time too, the police officers scolded S. They called her a “quarrelsome lady” and told her she was “very shrewd” for recording calls and videos of her husband. 

When the PLV pointed to the protection order several times, she was told, "It is our job to protect everyone. Why should we specifically protect her? What is the meaning of such an order? Get clearer instructions from the court.” 

“Do you think that the police have nothing better to do? We get several cases – murders and assaults. Do you think we have the time to deal with such trivial matters?”

Despite the PLV reiterating the gravity of offences, the nature of which is such that the police are required to register an FIR compulsorily, they said, “Just because you say something has happened does not mean it has actually happened. She has been married to her husband for 24 years. Why is she only coming to us now.” 

“Is it my fault for enduring for so long, or is it my fault for finally wanting a respectable life,” said S while exiting the police station. 

Read Aparimita Pratap & Priyanka Prasanth’s full story here.

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