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On the outskirts of a village in Badaun district of western Uttar Pradesh, a woman waited five years for word on her son, the eldest of her six children. She consulted the village astrologer who told her she would soon hear from him. When there was still no word, she gave him up for dead. Until three policemen from Delhi showed up at her hut last month and asked her if she was the mother of a boy who had left home eleven years ago.
The juvenile among the six arrested for the gangrape and torture of a 23-year-old woman who died in a Singapore hospital, 13 days after she was assaulted on board a moving bus in south Delhi, had snapped all contact with his family five years ago.
Ever since she was told that her son had been arrested in a gangrape case — police claim he was the most brutal of the six — the woman has not stirred out of her home. It's a hut with no roof, only a plastic sheet as cover. Residents of the village say the family of the juvenile is the poorest among them.
When The Sunday Express met the juvenile's mother, she said her son used to send them Rs 600, twice a year.
But that stopped five years ago. Neighbours told her he had been spotted at a hotel in East Delhi where he worked as a waiter. Later, they told her they couldn't find him.
She said he left the village eleven years ago. "His father is mentally ill. He was the eldest, so he went to Delhi to work at a hotel with some people from the village. Rs 600, twice a year, was a big help," she said.
"The others returned to the village but he did not. Later, someone told us he was working as a bus cleaner. But that was six years ago. After some time, we lost all contact. I thought he was dead," she said.
She now worries for her other children — three sons, two daughters, all younger than the juvenile accused. "None of my children go to school, we have no money. We travel more than 30 km to the town to find work as labourers. Our troubles will end if my elder daughter gets married. But now no one will marry her."
She no longer wishes to see her eldest son. "We have no money to travel to such a far away place. I do not care what the court orders in this case. As far as I am concerned, he is dead."
Since his arrest, the police have come twice to the village. The first time was to inform his parents about the arrest. Four days ago, police returned to conduct an inquiry into his date of birth which, according to a school certificate, makes him four months short of 18 years.
Some in the village believe he is older. "He left the village eleven years ago. How is it possible for a six-year-old to leave the village for work in Delhi," asked a resident. The local school is shut and the headmaster can't be traced. He has even switched off his mobile phone.
Police have said they will wait for the report of an ossification test and if it is proved that the accused is not a juvenile, they will press charges relating to murder, rape and assault.