By Oxfam India:
I do not know what caste is, but I do know that I am responsible for my future. I am a 22-year-old female and I can proudly say that I have triumphed over traditional atrocities that were born much before I was. It is never too late to change. I live in the village of Gangepur Mathiya (Azamgarh). This is a place where houses of the backward castes are separate from those that belong to the Scheduled Castes. And this is the place where I was introduced to the cruelties of the caste system in a brutal way. But I fought back.
It was the winter of 2011. I had accompanied some friends to gather firewood from the nearby area of Deyara. We were on our way back when I stopped by a hand pump to drink water. I had just touched the lever of the pump when a man rushed towards me shouting that I had polluted the water. He abused me and began beating me up. I shouted for help, but my scared friends had already run away. I have no recollection of how I was rescued. I fainted and when I regained consciousness I was in the hospital.
My family immediately contacted the SRSP office from where two counsellors rushed to my village and helped my family draft an application in the local thana. The police refused to register an FIR, but did come to the village to inquire into the matter. I had beating marks all over my body and I could not even speak. By late night, my condition got worse and the organisation arranged for me to be taken to the Azamgarh Civil Hospital. Next morning, the police, based on its preliminary inquiry, registered an FIR under the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act 1989 and for attempt to rape. Three days later I was discharged, but the constant talk of the incident at my village made me sick again. People were insinuating that I had something to do with the man who attacked me. My mother, Kalyani Devi, who is an accredited health worker, again got in touch with the organisation and requested that I be taken to the short stay home at the SRSP premises. A week away from the village helped me recover from that trauma and also gave me the assurance to appear for my BA exams which I had initially wanted to quit.
A supportive family which reposed faith in the organisation and the constant follow up, helped me regain confidence and I got myself enrolled in an MBA programme the following year. Now, I am on the verge of completing my education, and I am contemplating an office job. The case against the accused, who was imprisoned for six months, still continues. My 75-year-old grandfather Kishan Lal says, “When I was younger, discrimination was far more pronounced. Vidya has a chance to fight it with her education. She must become economically independent, before we think of marriage for her”.
Some pain still lingers beneath my confident exterior. I loved to dance to film songs once and wanted to make a career of it. The attack however robbed me of that dream because I cannot imagine leaving the secure cover of my family to learn dancing. I do not dwell on my worries for too long, though. I am sure I can achieve whatever I set my heart on.