My name is Sheelu Nishad. I live in Shahbazpur, a village in Banda, in Bundelkhand.

What is happening in Unnao today is déjà vu for me.

In 2011, I was raped by then sitting Bahujan Samaj Party MLA Purushottam Dwivedi. I was 17. I could not walk for days, the pain was so intense. I remember bleeding for 22 days straight. But I was broken, mentally and emotionally.

I was threatened by the MLA, his sidekicks and party workers to stay mum. When I did not because I could not, a case of robbery was slapped on me. I spent several days in jail, where I actually felt safe because everyone told me they would kill me the very day I stepped out.

My relatives, neighbours, everyone advised me to let it go, out of fear. My uncle relocated, fearing for his life. I don’t blame him. I too was very, very afraid. There was social pressure on me and my family to settle – “samjhauta kar lo”. There were threats – political honchos would come to my village and speak of setting people aflame if they supported me.

I was a poor farmer’s daughter. I was a child and I was both confused and frightened out of my wits.

But more than anything else, I was angry. Very, very angry.

I decided to fight for justice.

I filed a complaint. I spoke with the media, I engaged with Sampat Pal, the fiery commander of the Gulabi Gang. I went to Delhi and appeared on news debates. I participated in the protests that raged through the capital in the aftermath of Nirbhaya’s rape. I was one of the voices that demanded capital punishment for inhuman acts such as rape. I was the first woman in Banda to have registered a case against a sitting politician – it was a historic moment.

'I was the first woman in Banda to have registered a case against a sitting politician,' says Sheelu Nishad.
'I was the first woman in Banda to have registered a case against a sitting politician,' says Sheelu Nishad.

I am often called a hero, but I want to say I could not have done it alone. I had journalists behind me; Khabar Lahariya was one of the first media platforms to contact and support me. I had the support of important politicians from the Congress. I was given a gunner for protection soon after the FIR was lodged and a pistol for self-defence – these things matter. Several individuals and groups rallied around me. You need the numbers to feel empowered, to know you have the strength to go ahead.

This is what I wish for the girl in Unnao, that she feel supported enough. And this is my appeal to Chief Minister Adityanath and Prime Minister Narendra Modi – that they ensure the girl gets justice.

Because, honestly, I am not hopeful of her getting justice. I do not blame the adhikaris and officials, they all only follow the party in power. Uttar Pradesh and the Centre both have the Bharatiya Janata Party in power. “Sarkar ki satta” is the most powerful mechanism in the world, there is nothing more powerful. Until and unless the governing party comes forward, this case too will fall into the usual cycle of dabaav, dhamki, samjhauta – pressure, threat, compromise.

I request Adityanath ji and Modi ji to ensure that the Central Bureau of Investigation enquiry into the case is conducted in an unprejudiced, just manner, and the accused are convicted.

This article first appeared on Khabar Lahariya. It has been lightly edited for style.