Silence won’t bring change, must talk about rape: mother of Dec 16 victim
On December 29, 2012, India mourned the loss of a ‘national hero’ when a young girl passed away 13 days after being brutally gang raped in the national capital. For her mother, the loss was of her flesh and blood.
The gang rape of a 23-year-old girl in Delhi on December 16, 2012, brought the question of women’s safety in India, and Delhi in particular, to the forefront. Many embraced the victim as one of their own.
She has since been dubbed as the brave, the fearless and even hailed as the nation’s daughter. But to this mother, she was just her child. Thirteen days after the incident, the young girl passed away, and the nation mourned the loss of a ‘national hero’. But this mother lost her flesh and blood.
Hindustan Times talks to her to find out how she is coping, four years later. Excerpts:
You have shown great courage in the face of a devastating incident. Where does your courage come from?
When I go out, I meet a lot of people, who claim that I am a very brave person. I am not brave. I am just a mother who has to fight so that her daughter gets justice.
Many people go silent because of social stigma. I kept thinking, why should I hide my face? The criminals who did this to my daughter should be the ones to hide their faces.
My daughter kept fighting till her last breath, and so will I. It was reported that one of the aggressors said: “If she hadn’t fought so hard, then we wouldn’t have killed her.” I am proud that my daughter fought to keep herself safe.
Has time mitigated your pain?
No. I don’t think it’s true that pain reduces with time. We feel the pain just as acutely now, as we did in 2012.
My daughter passed away four years ago. I die every day, only to come back to life. Every day is an uphill battle, where I need to think how will I fight this, where will I start.
I don’t think this will ever get better. Some days I feel like I might die with grief. I don’t think I will ever be able to forget what happened.
What is the one memory of her that keeps coming back to you?
It still hurts like it was yesterday when I think about my daughter. Unfortunately, today when I think of her, I see her in the hospital bed and hear her screams of pain.
I also try to remember her good nature. I remember this one day in the hospital; she was not able to move her arms or legs, but she was concerned about me. She asked me why I had not set my hair, or why I had not showered.
There was a lot of demand for change post December 16, 2012, and some changes were made with the Justice Verma Committee reports and the subsequent amendments to rape laws in the country. Do you think these changes have been effective, and enough?
When I first saw the entire nation raising its voice against the injustices, I was confident that a lot would change. Some things did change. But despite this, the question of justice still looms large.
It has been four years since, and in this time if my daughter has not been served justice, what can others hope for. People may be given death sentence, but if we keep them in prison for 10-15 years, where his meals, drinks and security is taken care of, before meting out their sentences, how is this justice? In this time, the culprits may even be left out after a while saying that he has served enough.
The death penalty is definitely the justice we need, and want. Anything less, is never going to be enough. In fact for people who have completely let go of their humanity, any punishment would be too lenient. But death penalty is the most they can be given, so it will have to do.
Every day rape cases are being reported. What is your reaction when you read about these?
I feel pain and troubled, because I can relate to what the victims go through.
Crimes against women are the fault of an inactive society. If something like this happens in somebody’s house, even if it happens to their own child, people stay silent out of fear and shame. Other people think that this does not concern them.
I would like to remind people, that what is happening in somebody else’s house today, could happen in yours tomorrow. We never even fathomed that this would happen to our daughter, until it did.
Culprits are also not scared of the law anymore. There are laws, laws that have been amended since my daughter’s death, but I feel we still have issues with its implementation. Some think that they can get away with anything.
We need to encourage a conversation around real issues. Why are women still unsafe in our country? Why do we question her innocence more than the culprits’ guilt? This conversation needs to persist. We usually wait for a big incident to act like a catalyst for our outrage.
Do you think that talking about these issues will make a difference?
By talking about it, these issues will no longer be unheard of; they will come out in the open. By talking about it, this will become an issue. By making it an issue, we can work to find solutions.
If we keep quiet, and stay silently at home, then we cannot expect any change. Who will come to your home to help you out?
Only by talking about it can you make the government aware of your problems, and make the society aware as well.
Only by speaking about it can people know about what has happened, and they can help you get justice.
To read more from our Lets Talk About Rape series, click here.