Kailash’s phone hasn’t stopped ringing since the day the three men convicted for the rape and murder of his daughter in 2012 were acquitted by the Supreme Court. Although Kailash and his wife Rajeshwari have been receiving support from civil groups and the media’s attention, the verdict has steered them further away from closure..A trial court had in 2014 awarded Rahul, Ravi Kumar and Vinod the death penalty and the Delhi High Court subsequently confirmed the sentence. However, on November 7, the Supreme Court, while deciding their appeals, punched several holes in the police’s case that had led to their conviction.The dismay that has followed the top court's decision is palpable..Kailash says that the previous decisions of the courts below could not have been entirely wrong.“It is not as if the trial court did not read the case file before giving its verdict. Or, for that matter, without taking into account the testimonies. The Delhi High Court also examined it and gave its decision.I cannot accept the fact that the convicts were acquitted on the basis of evidence. Where was the evidence for all these years? I keep thinking about the case all the time. I don’t want anyone to go through such an experience,” said Kailash as he wiped the sweat and tears off his face. According to him, releasing criminals convicted of serious crimes would only enable them to commit more crimes with total abandon, without any fear of the law. “Releasing such perpetrators offers a breeding ground for more like them,” he said..'The evidence was not wrong'.On the night of February 9, 2012, the police received information that a woman had been kidnapped and forcibly put inside a red-coloured car at Chhawla, a suburban village in Delhi’s South-West district, bordering the neighbouring state of Haryana. Her body was later found in the agricultural fields of Rodai village, Haryana. Based on the confessional statements of one of the accused, the police apprehended others and chargesheeted them for gang-rape and murder. A trial court had in February 2014, convicted them for the offences of gang-rape, murder and causing disappearance of evidence and sentenced them to death. The Delhi High Court confirmed the death penalty in August the same year. .Kailash, who was a witness in his daughter’s case, lives with his wife and two children. Seated on a chair on the terrace of his recently renovated single-storey home, the father offered his thoughts on the case’s outcome.“If the Supreme Court was not convinced with death penalty to the convicts, it could have spared a thought on life-term imprisonment...It should not have let them off. The evidence is not wrong in the case,” he said. At the time of trial, the doctor who conducted the post-mortem on his daughter had fainted in the courtroom during the testimony, which he believes was indicative of the gruesomeness of the crime. “What more could have been offered?” he questioned. .A promising life cut short.The closely-constructed houses in the suburban neighbourhood where the family resides look like they are a single unit. The only distinction between the houses is the colour-scheme used for each house.A group of 4-5 women have gathered in one of the rooms to share the mother’s grief and memories of the young daughter..The family has lived in the neighbourhood since they moved to the city from their home state in northern India. The father, without any formal education, chose odd jobs for a living.At the time of the incident, 19-year-old daughter worked in a Gurgaon company and funded her own education, besides financially helping the family. She wanted to be a teacher after completing her graduation..“Which parent is not proud of their child becoming successful? At every stage of their growth - from infancy when they learn to talk or walk or later when they get good grades, or receive higher education and get a job - parents are always proud and content,” said Kailash, who is clad in a blue jumper and grey pair of track pants. With the daughter gone, Kailash derived "strength from her memories" to fight court cases..But his wife Rajeshwari, on the other hand, struggled to muster strength to come to terms with the loss initially. The family had to leave their previous home where they lived with their daughter; the mother found the emotions that came with her loss too overwhelming..There were days when the mother sat on the porch of the house waiting for the daughter to show up. “I kept looking on both left and right side of the lane in front of the house thinking that I would see her walk towards me. I couldn’t accept the fact that she was not going to return,” said Rajeshwari.The situation had even prompted the family to think about leaving the city, but Kailash wanted to stay and fight the case..“Ladna tha (Had to fight the case),” he said. The mother has vivid memories of her daughter. At a fairly young age, she wanted to save up enough to help the family buy a bigger house and contribute financially.Having a daughter for Rajeshwari was like having a friend with whom she shared all her feelings. She is in complete disagreement with the notion that a son should have more privileges than a daughter. .“Our society has this notion that when a son steps out, he can return whenever he wants, but when a daughter is late even by 10 minutes, we start questioning her. This is wrong,” said the mother. Taking away the freedom from daughters, she said, was not correct as they too have to build a life of their own. “Aurat nahi rahegi toh duniya aage kaise badhegi? Bachpan se paraya dhan bol dete hain beti ko. Wo beech me reh jaati hai. Ye bahut galat soch hai samaj mein. Chahe beta ho ya beti ho, wo ek samaan hain (How will the world function without women? A daughter is deemed to be a liability since her childhood. She finds herself torn between two sides. This is wrong thought process. Whether a son or a daughter, they are the same),” she said..Rajeshwari often mistakenly calls her younger daughter by the name of the daughter she lost. “Only her name comes to my mind. She always wanted me to dress up nicely and look after myself. I tried to reason with her, but she wouldn’t budge. She was good in studies, and had developed her interests in stitching and painting,” said Rajeshwari in a quivering voice. “Unfortunately, the perpetrators cut short a life full of talents,” she added..'Just existing, not living'.Rajeshwari recollected the evening of her daughter’s abduction and the days that followed her death.“She had called me to say that she was with her friends. But when she did not return at the usual time, we thought she had gone to the bank to withdraw her salary money. Later, someone informed us that she had been abducted,” she remembered. From then on, the family has been “just existing, not living”..For now, the family has a worrisome situation at hand. Their son was young at the time of their daughter’s death and learnt about the unpleasant details of his sister’s case on the day of the Supreme Court judgment. “He was angry on seeing the news on November 7. He had not known the seriousness of the crime against her,” the mother explained.The family has been asking him to believe that there will be justice. “Maybe there is a meaning to why they were let off. Maybe a fate they deserve, awaits.”.After already going through a long legal battle, the parents are not done fighting just yet.“We will move against the acquittal,” said Kailash..Names have been changed to protect the identities of the parents.Photos: Shashi Shekhar Kashyap.