Damini or Nirbhaya, a self made para-medico daughter of a Loader, who was commendably supporting her studies by doing tuitions, was tortured, dehumanized and ultimately consigned to flames very early on an extremely cold day. Visibility being low during this part of the year is not something unusual in Delhi. But the bone-chilling and freezing conditions on 29/12/12 made the matters worse.
No one got a hint about the exact touch down of the dead body from Singapore and its subsequent arrival at a non-descript location in Sector 19, Dwarka. Thus, 13 days of unimaginable trauma was over for a bubbly girl and the only hope of a struggling family who had just begun her foray in this mystical world. All her sympathizers and well-wishers at Vijay Chowk (12,000 on a day) India Gate & Jantar Mantar were left high and dry. While the largest impromptu public outrage in Delhi was punctured, the Administration had the last laugh.
Primarily, due to her extraordinary strength and determination, she could bear and tolerate assaults of extreme nature, which could easily be included in the category of horrendous crimes requiring exemplary punishment. Even in the I.C.U. she expressed a desire to change her clothes and comb her hair. It was a pity that recording of her statement by a woman SDM reflected an unfortunate bone of contention between the Magistracy and the Police. Alas, her God died young. Her fight and that of her friend and the remarkable resistance against the savage gang rape and aborted attempts to crush them under the bus will have a few parallels. What a grit and confidence they displayed against the brutal forces in the wee hours!
Reportedly, she was to get married within three months but no one had imagined that she will loose her valiant battles in two hospitals so soon despite the best medical treatment and attention. Decision to shift her abroad while she was still on ventilator, itself was not free from controversies.
Till last moment, her name remained undisclosed due to legal restrictions, yet she was fondly addressed and rightly revered. She went on to symbolize the pains and compulsions faced by the women, who, instead of getting protected and respected are silenced and vanquished almost everyday in the nooks and corners of the country. One knows only about a handful, courtesy media, civil society or a few crusaders, who take a vow to bring changes in the over all attitude of the society.
The case, per se, has brought enough shame for the country. At the same time, it exposed our hypocrisy. In the process, a large number of like minded and suffering individuals came together, got a voice and an occasion to unite. Her body is gone forever but her soul lives. Rather, it should live to provide support to the needy, to those who apprehend threats within the four walls as also outside, on a daily basis.
Very few episodes and incidents have united the country in the manner this particular one has, from students to housewives, tiny tots to senior citizens, media persons to writers & artists, politicians to film stars, all were on streets braving inclement weather but voicing concern unequivocally.
On the first day of yet another New Year don’t we, therefore, recite a prayer in her memory and attempt to discover Nirbhaya within ourselves? In sum and substance, she bravely lit a flame which needs to be protected and carried forward.
As a matter of relief if not as a remedy, the unprecedented sexual violence must come to an end and various measures suggested by a cross-section of people need to be considered: enhanced punishment, chemical castration, scaling down VIP security, fast track courts, daily hearing in rape cases, a dedicated helpline in important places, gender sensitivity training for police and Govt. servants, swift action on complaints against policemen, responsible reporting by the media and special session of Parliament. Also, the prevailing attitude towards women in general has to change. On the domestic front, preference on the part of a mother for a male child, has to be given up as quickly as possible.
Many known personalities of the country and abroad wrote and spoke about Damini’s sufferings as long as she was alive. Serious debate over dignity of women also triggered and touching obituaries were attempted after she breathed her last. Notable among them came from the President of India, Home Minister, Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha, D.Raja, CPI Leader, Mary Kom, Javed Akhtar, Amitabh Bachchan etc.
Summing up with the statement of Ban-ki-Moon, Secretary General of UN, may be appropriate -“violence against women must never be accepted, never excused, never tolerated. Every girl and woman has the right to be respected, valued and protected”