This day, two years ago, when 23-year-old Nirbhaya left the safety of her home and stepped out onto the streets of Delhi, she could not have imagined it would be her last. On 16 December 2012, Nirbhaya was gangraped by six men in a moving bus and then left to die on the Capital’s streets, having suffered incredible brutality. She died on 29 December that year far away from Delhi – in a hospital in Singapore.
Almost two years to the day that the Nirbhaya gangrape – a crime unprecedented in violence and callousness — disturbed the deep slumber of Indians of all hues and motivations, the Uber rape of 5 December 2014 took place. But this time, the outrage has been muted, the howls of protest are somehow not that aggressive, there are no agitated crowds braving teargas shells and water cannons at Raisina Hill and the news channels all got busy covering ‘landmark’ election news and ‘controversial’ conversion debates, hardly a few hours later.
That’s why the question – Did Nirbhaya die in vain? Did her death prove futile? Were no lessons learnt from the horrific crime? Did the sentencing of the accused serve as no deterrence at all?
In the aftermath of the Nirbhaya gangrape, it had appeared as if crimes against women would see a sharp decline and if they did occur, be dealt with swiftly and stringently. However, all the righteous rage and tall promises made two years ago seem to have fizzled out today.
The corrective, preventive measures promised to prevent a repeat of the Nirbhaya case can be broadly classified into four – The Utilisation of Nirbhaya Funds, Increased Policing and Prevention of Crimes against Women, Current status of conviction of Nirbhaya Case accused and Increased Gender Sensitisation.
Here’s a close look at how we have failed to honour Nirbhaya and failed to make Delhi any safer than it was two years ago.
1. The Utilisation of Nirbhaya Funds – The Rs 1000 crore fund Nirbhaya Fund — declared pompously and publicly — later swelled to Rs 2000 crore and was supposed to be set aside to prevent crimes against women. The Finance Ministry ‘invited bids’ from various departments and ministries to access it. These were then supposed to be allocated to these bidding departments/ministries. This fund is yet to be put to any use.
2. Increased Policing for Prevention of Crimes against Women – The Delhi Police had promised increased patrolling along ‘high-risk’ localities, deserted stretches, special night patrols. Two years hence, had even one of these measures been implemented, the Uber rape would have been avoided.
3. Current status of conviction of Nirbhaya Case convicts – Out of the four persons convicted of the crime (one of the accused, Ram Singh was found dead in Tihar Jail on March 11, 2013), the execution of two convicts — Pawan Gupta and Mukesh Singh was stayed on March 15, 2014. The execution of the remaining two accused — Vinay Sharma and Akshay Thakur – has also been stayed by a Supreme Court order dated July 14, 2014.
4. Improved Gender Sensitisation – Irrespective of which party is in power, gender insensitivity is rampant. Given that the trickle-down effect applies to everything in India, the following responses by Indian politicians give us no reason to expect a change for the better. From Abhijit Mukherjee, son of President Pranab Mukherjee saying in 2012 that the Nirbhaya protests were being led by “highly dented and painted” women to Finance Minister Arun Jaitley terming the incident “one small rape” in August 2014, only the names seem to have changed.
The women show hardly any more empathy. Mamta Sharma, National Commission for Women chairperson said, “Women should be careful about the way they dress because such incidents are a result of blindly aping the West. This is eroding our culture and causing such crimes (rapes) to happen.” Asha Mirje, Maharashtra state Women’s Commission member and Nationalist Congress Party leader suggested that Nirbhaya and another rape survivor in Mumbai had only themselves to blame for the crime. “Did Nirbhaya really have to go watch a movie at 11 in the night with her friend? Take the Shakti Mills gang rape. Why did the victim go to such an isolated spot at 9pm?”