A tale of two verdicts: Amid the frenzy over Salman's acquittal, India forgot about Suzette Jordan

Kolkata: Both are court verdicts. Both, coincidentally, were announced on the same day, almost at the same time.

Since then, one verdict has taken over the national consciousness while the other has gone almost totally unnoticed.

As Salman Khan's lawyer emerged victorious from the court on Thursday, a crowd of media personnel surrounded him. In absence of the Bollywood star, who was still busy finishing formalities after being acquitted by the Bombay High Court of all criminal charges in the 2002 hit-and-run case, the media hung on to the lawyer's every word.

 A tale of two verdicts: Amid the frenzy over Salmans acquittal, India forgot about Suzette Jordan

Suzette Jordan in this file photo. Image by Sandip Roy.

Even as he spoke, the footage was being telecast live on TV where breathless anchors went through every minute detail of the case, dissecting the whys and hows of Salman's acquittal.

Newspaper editors were equally busy ringing up the ad departments, asking for enough edit space on front page so that the Bollywood star's verdict gets proper coverage.

Bhai Roxxxxxxx!!!!, squealed fans on Twitter and those gathered around his Bandra residence began to sing, delighted that their reel hero has at last been set free after a 13-year-old Greco-Roman grappling with justice.

Within a few minutes of the court announcement, #SalmanVerdict was by far the top trend on Twitter.

In between, Suzette Jordan, the real hero, whose story should inspire millions, remained ignored in her hour of justice.

Almost four years after she was gangraped in a car, a Kolkata court on Thursday convicted three of the five accused in the infamous Park Street rape case. Additional sessions judge Chiranjib Bhattacharya of City Sessions Court pronounced Ruman Khan, Naser Khan and Sumit Bajaj guilty of the crime committed in February 2012.

The accused were found guilty under sections 376 (2)(g) (gangrape), 120B (criminal conspiracy) 323 (voluntarily causing hurt), 506 (criminal intimidation) and 34 (common intention) of the Indian Penal Code, said Tamal Mukherjee, the chief public prosecutor.

Two others including the main accused, Kader Khan, and Ali are absconding, The Telegraph said in a report.

Suzette, whom the media called 'the Park Street rape victim', a moniker she hated, fought against and which eventually led her to waive the right to anonymity, succumbed to illness in March this year.

On a cool February night in Kolkata, Suzette, then 37 and a single mother of two, went to a Park Street nightclub with friends.

She was offered a lift home by the convicts who brutalised and gangraped her through the night in a moving car and threw her out at dawn, clothes torn and barely conscious.

But her ordeal had only just begun.

Fighting against a patriarchal, sexist system, Suzette soon found getting justice was perhaps an even greater trauma.

Chief minister Mamata Banerjee called it a shajano ghotona (cooked up story) while Kakoli Ghosh Dastidar, MP of the ruling Trinamool Congress Party, suggested that Suzette was a sex worker and that the rape was the result of a dispute with a client.

Initially, the police were even reluctant to accept the complaint but when an inquiry was eventually launched, officer Damayanti Sen who finally cracked the case was shunted from her post of joint commissioner of police.

Apart from the legal hassles, the distress of trying to prove that she was indeed, raped, a media which couldn't see beyond identifying her as an anonymous victim trapped in blurry images, Suzette became a caricature of herself, suffering, in addition, the mental agony of being judged by a society still steeped in duplicitous morality.

"What kind of a single mother goes to a pub so late in the night?"

She was violated, slandered, became the subject of political skulduggery and denied jobs wherever she applied to.

But the hero in her fought back. She went through acute depression, fought through debilitating pain and came out on top.
She waived her right to anonymity, reclaimed her identity, found herself a job which gave her the opportunity to get in touch with victims of social injustice. She attended rallies, visited and counseled survivors. Gave them strength.

Till the time that she died due to meningoencephalitis, Suzette had scripted an incredible, inspiring story and she was the hero in it.

But the verdict which brought so much joy to her family — parents, a sister and two teenage daughters — and justice for Suzette which was denied to her in life, holds little meaning for us.

Why celebrate a real life hero? Suzette took on the prejudices of a society, the cynical politicisation of a crime, fought against a biased law and order system and won. Big deal.

Let's instead celebrate the hero who is finally set free so that he can go back to doing what he does best. Fighting the villains on screen.

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Updated Date: Dec 11, 2015 09:38:26 IST