There was a young woman, working towards an education and nurturing dreams of a good life in the Indian capital of New Delhi. This was three years ago, when she was still alive. Her name was Jyoti Singh Pandey, dubbed “Nirbhaya” until her mother decided to reveal her fearless daughter’s identity.
On the fateful night of December 16, 2012, she was walking with her male friend to take a bus home after watching the famous film, Life of Pi, a Hollywood adaptation of Yann Martel’s novel by the same name. The time was roughly 9:30 p.m. when a minor called out to these prospective passengers to board his off-duty charter bus telling them the bus was going to their destination. Jyoti and her friend boarded the bus, completely oblivious to the horrendous events that were waiting to unfold.
The bus quickly went off route; its doors were shut, and the six men on board, including the driver, started making lewd remarks at the couple. When Jyoti’s male friend tried to intervene, he was gagged, beaten and struck with an iron rod. The men then carried Jyoti to the rear of the bus, beating her with the iron rod, raping her violently while the bus continued to move. Jyoti sustained ghastly injuries as the monsters penetrated her with the rusted iron rod, later described as an L-shaped implement, the type used as a wheel-jack handle.
After the ghoulish joyriders had had their fill of beating and raping, they threw the grievously injured couple off the moving bus. The bus driver allegedly tried to run over the woman but her male friend pulled her away.
After scores of surgeries, including removing her remaining intestine, Jyoti succumbed to her unfathomable injuries, the list of which is seemingly endless: cardiac arrest, brain damage, pneumonia, abdominal infection etc. etc.
This was a young woman who had simple dreams and she was working hard to realize them. She was a loving daughter to a father who worked double shifts to support her education. Her mother pampered her in a society where a girl child is considered a burden. The family is left with nightmares of their screaming daughter being assaulted by a gang of savages who tore her body apart and pulled out her intestines.
The minor who had hailed Jyoti and her male friend into his bus was among the most brutal perpetrators of this tragedy. Yet, Indian law protects minors from the full force of punishment that is worthy of a crime as heinous as this one. After serving only 3 years in an “Observation Home,” this juvenile delinquent devil will walk the streets of India with a prize of 10,000 Rupees and a sewing machine to set up a tailoring business; a gift bestowed on him generously by the government.
My questions are simple: if a minor is old enough to commit such barbaric acts of violence, why isn’t he old enough to be punished for the same? Why can’t the laws be more commensurate with the gravity of offences, whether they are committed by minors or adults? Who guarantees the safety of vulnerable women in India when a message is sent to perpetrators that you would get off before you can count three? Lastly, how can gifts like cash and a sewing machine be bestowed upon somebody who didn’t just take a life, but took it by inflicting pain that only the victim knew, and agony only her loved-ones understand and live every single day?
About the author
Vinita Kinra is a Toronto-based author, editor, speaker and activist, best known for her short story collection, Pavitra in Paris, launched to critical acclaim in 2013. She is also a contributor for India’s largest English daily, The Times of India.