Kamalika Das’s Cousin Smita Sharma Recounts the Seventeen-Year-Old’s Fight For Justice

01 April 2015

The past two months that followed the demise of my younger cousin Kamalika Das, on 20 January 2015, have been one of the most difficult times of my life. It was not that I had not encountered death before or faced it up close and personally; my uncle and twenty-two-year-old cousin, both passed away in a road accident in 2008. I saw them come home a day after the accident, enveloped in plastic.

But that was an accident, a tragedy, perhaps fate gone wrong. There was no one to blame, there was no one we could hold responsible for their deaths. It was sad, yes, but at least we only had to deal with overcoming our sense of sadness and loss.

What happened this year was different. It is a memory that neither my family nor I will ever be able to get over. Kamalika did not die in an accident; her untimely death at the age of seventeen was not a matter of chance. She chose to take her life and committed suicide by jumping off the seventh story of a building. She did this because her school, the very institution we had hoped would mould her into a good person and would help teach kids right from wrong, had failed her.

Actually, no, the school did not just fail her; it drove her to kill herself. And that was because she had dared to raise her voice and say that she had been sexually assaulted.

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Smita Sharma is a freelance photojournalist and documentary photographer based between New York and Kolkata and covers gender violence issues. She tweets as @smitashrm.

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