Most of us wouldn’t think twice about going for a late night movie. With friends or family, we would look forward to the popcorn and the story line and maybe a late dinner or an ice cream on the way back home. One may stop for a pan or a smoke after that and with a night well spent, go home and sleep fitfully.
On 16th December, 2012, Jyoti Singh had been looking forward to something similar. Out for a movie with a friend in Saket, she was having an enjoyable evening and would have gone home and slept easy. All was well, except she never made it home.
After a movie in Saket, she and her friend boarded a private bus apparently on the way to Dwarka and were convinced by the convicts that Jyoti and her friend would be dropped off at Munirka, which fell on route and which is where she lived. Somewhere along the way, they noticed that the bus wasn’t taking the normal route and the doors had been locked. The six others which were in the bus, including the driver, passed comments on the two late night travellers making their way home. When her friend objected, the nightmare began in all its grisly detail.
While one drove the bus, the other occupants beat her friend whom she tried to protect. They left him with multiple fractures and then turned their attention to Jyoti. In the private bus, behind tinted windows, she was repeatedly raped by them, while one kept driving the bus around. Objects were pushed into her, rods that would mutilate her genitals and even tear her intestines into shreds.
We gave her many names – Nirbhaya, the fearless one; Damini, lightning; Jagruti, awareness, Delhi Braveheart and even India’s Daugther. We prayed for her, we protested for her. When she died, on 29th December, we even shed tears for her. The shocking reality of everyday violence and crimes of sexual nature, while not talked about, is a fact for everyone. Why cry over spilt milk, as many put it. Statements were made and redacted. Some went to sympathise with the family and demand justice. Others suggested that the survivor should have begged the attackers and addressed them as elder brothers. All was received in shock, talked about and slowly left to be forgotten in the corners of our minds.
The accused were arrested in days, mainly because of the intense attention given to it by Indian and international media. One of the accused turned out to be a minor. Of the 5 adults arrested, the main accused, Ram Singh, was later found to be hanging in his jail cell in an apparent case of suicide. The Sessions Court and the High Court of Delhi went on to find the remaining four defendants guilty of rape, murder, unnatural offences and destruction of evidence. The case is now in the Supreme Court.
The juvenile accused was found guilty and sentenced to 3 years in an observation home. He completed his sentence and was released in 2015 amidst protest against such a move, when doubts were raised with regards to his mental condition.
Over 5 years have passed since the incident. The survivor is dead, the main accused is dead. The friend has to live his days with the memory of the crime. The 4 adult accused are awaiting a verdict on their pleas against the death sentence served to them. The parents of Jyoti have tried to move on and pick up the pieces of what their life is now. Life carries on.
But, in a country known for under reporting of crime, the winds of change are blowing again. No longer are cases of rape a shame for the survivor. No longer are these crimes brushed aside. The sudden increase in these crimes since then has been attributed to women stepping out and reporting the crimes, something unheard of in the past.
Jyoti Singh was 23 when she was brutally raped, assaulted with rods pushed into her genitals and thrown out of a moving bus naked after the crime. She was pursuing a career in physiotherapy and had hoped to support her parents when she started her own practice.
When the protests hit the streets of Delhi, one can’t forget the question someone had raised. Is she a brave heart because she was raped?
No. She was a brave heart because she wanted to live.
Ranveer Raj Bhatnagar