CHENNAI: It was the promise of a chocolate by her mother that made the six-year-old girl, a victim of sex abuse, wait on the corridors of Tambaram court complex for nearly six hours on Thursday. Every time she saw a handcuffed man with armed policemen on guard, the girl would ask her mother why she had been brought to a place that was strange to her.
"Throughout the day, she kept asking why we were there, how long she should be there and pester me to take her back home," the father of child told Express. And the only way the mother could keep her child calm was by promising her a chocolate.
The mother could not tell the child the actual reason why she had come to a court - to give her statement against an "anna" in her neighbourhood, whom the girl had said had sexually abused her for several months in a government-run day care home.
The child's mother and father, both daily wage labourers, took their child with the help of a child welfare activist to the court complex by 9.45 am on Thursday, 15 minutes earlier than the time a constable from the local police station had told them.
As it turned out, the child had to wait on the corridors of the court complex almost through out the court's working hours. Only by 3.45 pm police finally took the girl to the magistrate's chamber to record her statement.
As they waited for hours in the scorching day on the corridors and under a tree in the complex, the child watched all the handcuffed accused persons being escorted by the policemen armed with huge rifles.
"She would ask why those men are handcuffed and taken out. All I could do was to close her eyes or turn her away," the mother said, who was afraid that the sight would traumatize her child more.
The sub-inspector of the local police station, who was handling the case, herself reached the court only by 11.30 am. The parents said the sub-inspector again asked the child to narrate what that "anna" did to her in the government day care where she was left since both her parents had to go to work. The parents felt uncomfortable as the policeman asked her minute details of the abuse she suffered. But they could do nothing but watch.
As the sun scorched at noon, the child became drowsy. But there was no place in the court where the mother could make the child sleep. "At one point, my husband requested the police officer if we could have the hearing on another day as the child was already tired after the travel (the child's home is nearly 20km away from Tambaram) and waiting for hours," said the mother of the child.
The car of a social activist, who was helping the parents in taking up the case legally, had also heated up as it was parked under the sun.
Though the parents managed to pacify the child, another trouble was lack of a proper toilet that the girl could use. The child had urinary infection after the alleged abuse by the adolescent boy, who was in custody at the juvenile home at Kellys. The mother was worried if the smelly toilets in the court would aggrevate the infection. But she had no options.
"Finally, at around 3.45 pm we were called to come to the judge's chamber. The doors were locked and my daughter narrated to the judge how the boy abused her," said the father.
When the judge heard that the girl and her parents were waiting since 9.45am in the court, he questioned the sub-inspector why they were made to come in the morning when they know the statement would be recorded only by 4 pm.
"The SI told the judge she was not aware how they were asked to come early," said the mother of the child, who was also present in the chamber.
When Express asked the sub-inspector why the child was made to wait in the court the entire day, the officer said the police had to arrange a camera to record the statement as the child deposed before the judge. Arranging the camera took time.