As a woman living in India, one of my major concerns, from now on, will be to escape unharmed and alive if my two-wheeler or four-wheeler breaks down at a deserted street at night. We must not ask for help, or even be bothered about the damaged vehicle.
The challenge would be to get home without getting raped and murdered.
This is a challenge no woman would want to take up, and yet, what option do we have in a country where violence against women is deeply entrenched in the patriarchal society?
It is heart-wrenching and disturbing to even imagine what the 27-year-old vet from Hyderabad had to endure before she died. It is every woman’s worst nightmare. The country is enraged now. People are furious. They want justice.
But while people are protesting now, how long will this stir last? In a few days, people will retreat to their normal lives and be happy and at peace again.
The rising rape cases have normalised the heinous crime to an extent where most horrific of these crimes soon fade away from public memory. No one remembers – except the survivors and their families.
While we at The Logical Indian are perturbed by the recent murder, we have not forgotten the unsettling events that have happened in India over the years. We remember some of the daughters of India who have faced the worst, fought their battles and made us believe that there is a Nirbhaya in every one of us and that we will fight till we get the justice.
On November 27, 1973, Mumbai nurse Aruna Shanbaug was sodomised by a cleaner at the hospital she worked. Sohanlal Bharta Walmiki attacked her while she was changing clothes in the hospital basement. He choked her with a dog chain and sodomized her. Aruna died in 2015 in hospital after being in a vegetative state. For 42 years, she couldn’t recognise anyone, was unable to speak and perform the most basic tasks.
In 1990, Hetal Parekh, a student of Welland Gouldsmith School at Bowbazar, Kolkata, was brutally murdered by the Dhananjoy Chatterjee, the security guard of the building she lived in, for rejecting his advances.
In 2004, 32-year-old Thangjam Manorama from Manipur was abducted from her home by the soldiers of Assam Rifles. They accused her of helping insurgents. Her mutilated body was found hours later, her pelvis riddled with dozens of bullets.
An Adivasi school teacher turned political leader from Chhattisgarh, Soni Sori was taken into police custody since October 2011, when she was arrested on charges of being a courier for the Maoists. While in custody, she was allegedly raped and stones were shoved inside her vagina.
In the wee hours of February 5, 2012, Suzette Jordan met five men at a night club in Park Street, Kolkata, who offered her a lift and promised to drop her home. Soon after, she was gang raped and dumped in the streets.
On the fateful night of December 16, 2012, a 23-year-old female physiotherapy intern in Delhi was coming back home with her male friend after watching a movie. They boarded a bus which had six other people in it, including the driver. They tortured the woman, beat her up, gang raped her and assaulted her with an iron rod. She later succumbed to her injuries.
On June 7, 2013, a second-year BA student of Derozio College, Kolkata, was walking home along the Kamduni BDO Office Road in the afternoon when she was attacked by eight men. She was gang raped, tortured and brutally murdered. Her body was dumped into a nearby field.
Shakti Mills Case
In 2013, a 22-year-old photojournalist working in Mumbai had gone on an assignment to take some photographs of the deserted Shakti Mills compound, with a male colleague. Five men tied up her colleague and took turns to rape her, holding a beer bottle to her neck. They took pictures of her and threatened to release them if she complained.
In 2018, an eight-year-old girl from Bakarwal tribe in Jammu and Kashmir’s Kathua was held captive and gang raped for days, before being brutally murdered.
These women are only a few of the several women in the country who are raped and killed every day. Today, we remember Nirbhaya only when another rape case comes to the fore. Otherwise, she is one of the many names that get lost in the chaos.
But how many Nirbhayas need to suffer before these atrocities stop?
Our country’s crime investigation methodology has to improve – it has to become quicker and swifter. A case takes so long to conclude in India that witnesses get dissipated and memory wears out. The process of delivering justice is so slow that people tend to give up.
But just drafting a better law is not enough. Society needs to change. The tendency to blame and shame victims need to stop. People need to learn to equate men and women.
The outrage that is out there right now, because of the Hyderabad vet’s rape and murder, is essential. But what is more important is to let the fire in our hearts burn till we get justice for each of them and till no woman is raped in this country.
Let us remain angry as long as there is no difference, and as long as we have to remind ourselves to put the pepper spray and pocket knife in our bags before we head out.