Nirbhaya – India’s Forgotten Daughter
She was an ordinary girl from an Indian middle class family. At the brink of graduation, she had dreamt of a bright future not only as a physiotherapist but also as the sole bread winner for her family of five. On a fatal Sunday, after watching a movie with a male friend she boarded a bus that she believed would take her home. Little did she know that the bus would rather direct her to the jaws of brutal death. On that cold winters night of 16th December 2012, she was then christened as Nirbhaya (which means fearless in Hindi).
Since then Nirbhaya has been a household name in India. She was brutally gang-raped in a moving bus during the rush hours of a late Sunday evening. The six men, five adults and a juvenile, diligently raped her, viciously assaulted her with an iron rod, badly beat her friend and dumped both of them on the streets unclothed and penniless. Though she was hospitalised for a week, she succumbed to her injuries later.
This horrific incident galvanised an entire nation for the first time in many years. Despite the freezing winter, ordinary men and women came out on to the streets of India’s cities in unprecedented numbers to protest. They demanded for safety and security from both state and central governments. However a crime of such kind was not the first to be reported but it was definitely the one that crossed the level of saturation for forbearance of the masses.
Even after two years, sadly nothing has changed much. The convicts of Nirbhaya’s rape are jailed with a death sentence and have appealed to the Supreme courts. Their defence lawyers staunchly blame the girl. The juvenile was sentenced to the term of plain 3 years, thanks to the age old unamended laws of Indian justice. Yes, in a few months he will be walking free on the streets and stalking women. The other convicts are in living in jail without regrets or remorse. Well they say torturing women was a normal thing for them.
This week and almost a month after India had celebrated her 65th Republic Day with the theme “Women Power”; her people once again voiced their angst to the government and the system of preying women. What triggered this rage is not the BBC released documentary movie on the Nirbhaya rape case but the banned that has been imposed on it by the Home Ministry fearing that it “may hurt the sentiments of people”. Well to the best of my knowledge bans and democracy don’t go hand in hand Mr Home Minister.
Government officials (then and now), the state police and other concerned authorities have yet to bat an eyelid on the matters of women safety. What surprises rather embarrasses me is the not failure of providing complete security to women and children. It’s the mysterious silence that has been maintained throughout. Though numerous cases of rape of both women and children have been reported since 2012 from all parts of the country, be it urban or remote, there has not been a single press statement from government officials despite of being lead by a prime minister known of his impeccable oratory skills and three significant ministries lead by ladies themselves. In fact, in the following week after Nirbhaya’s rape, the then home minister clearly outlined that there is absolutely no need to even hold an immediate parliamentary session regarding the incident!! Instead the government preferred to confront the frustrated population with lathi charges, tear gas and water cannons.
Well in the eyes of many men, including the rapists and their defence lawyers, it is the women to blame. According to their definitions of “Indian culture” women on streets after 6.30 pm are the ones of filthy character. Even if they are returning home from work or a pub or mall, it doesn’t make any difference to this notion. If they are seen sporting western clothes like denims and trousers then they are basically provoking and inviting men to rape them. Most of these men would say, “You see, she asked for it” or “She deserved it”.
The need of the hour is that the nation needs to be addressed regarding the annoying mentality by none other than the prime minister who is apparently too busy building the economy and creating entrepreneurial opportunities. Even President Obama had clearly mentioned his point without a tinge of diplomacy during his stay in India a month back. “This is one of the most direct measures of whether a nation is going to develop effectively – how it treats its women…. And as husbands and fathers and brothers, we have to step up because every girl’s life matters, every daughter deserves the same chance as our sons, every woman should be able to go about her day, to walk the streets, or ride the bus and be safe and be treated with respect and dignity. She deserves that.” he said. Does these words ring a bell Mr Prime Minister?
The youth, its supporters and Nirbhaya’s parents who desperately seek a change in the system thank the makers of the documentary. There have been countless protests and marches addressing the same. Many videos and short films based on gender based violence are being circulated in social media to generate awareness. Besides determination and perseverance there is an optimism that the Indian youth cradles in their hearts. Thus the fight for security and justice is on till democracy and freedom wins.