A while ago, I attended a press conference that didn't result in a story. To tell the truth, I did not even stay until the end of the conference.
It is hard to sit through testimonies of women who describe the years they spent being tortured, raped, jailed, harassed, orphaned, widowed and so on. All this, they said, was perpetrated by the police and/or the Special Task Force, while looking for the moustachioed brigand, Veerappan.
I listened to them. Five of them. And then I could take no more. (Thankfully, at least one journalist stayed back, and wrote about it.)
After an hour of this, I felt like I couldn't breathe. I walked out of the hall, into the sunshine.
Woman after woman breaking down. Woman after woman faltering as she could not find words for describing what had happened. Old women. Young women. Broken health. Lost jobs. Ongoing cases. Women naming the police officials who'd raped them. Who could have pointed out their tortemtors, in a line-up. But the cops were not going to organise a line-up for their fraternity, were they?
Oh, they did constitute one of those famous commissions of enquiry; the Justice Sadashiva panel was set up in 1999, and submitted a report to the National Human Rights Commission as early as Dec 3, 2003, confirming the terrible truth of those women's testimonies. However, it was not made public. That was why these women were here - they'd come to Delhi to protest, and demand that this report be released.
The delay was apparently caused by the state governments of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, who had not submitted their comments on the report. When they finally did, their responses were ridiculously defensive, saying, among other things, that the panel had exceeded its brief... exceeded... what? How do you limit the brief of justice?
It was only on the 19th of October, this year, that the NHRC ordered that the report be released to the complainants. The panel has recommended that 89 of the victims of STF's ... er, methods, be compensated.
And I'm sitting here, wondering, how much would be compensation enough?