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Will death of gang-raped girl be turning point for India?

December 30, 2012 11:55 IST

The police have failed to instill confidence, the judiciary has failed to deliver timely justice, the politician has failed to lead the way, feels Renu Mittal

The 23-year-old Delhi girl lost the battle for her life 13 days after she was brutally gang-raped in a Delhi bus by 6 men.  

She succumbed to her injuries in a Singapore hospital where she had been taken for treatment.

In what is being seen as a 'turning point', the entire country is grieving the death of this young girl who was the victim of unprecedented violence which was bestial and brutal, and which has shaken the conscience of the nation.

Candle light marches are being organised all across the country to protest crime against women and the insensitive approach of the police force and the crumbling law and order machinery.

While there is anger, there is also deep sadness since the news of the girl's passing away broke on Saturday morning.

Delhi has been put on high alert and there is huge amount of security in place particularly near Parliament and all roads leading to India Gate and the government offices have been blocked. It's as though there is a curfew in central Delhi even as a large number of people gathered on Saturday at Jantar Mantar to light candles and rise as a collective voice of India demanding justice and stringent punishment for the six accused.

Five of the six have been shifted to high security cells in Tihar jail as there is an apprehension that they may be attacked by other prisoners whilst the sixth who claims to be a minor has been kept elsewhere. Reports say that it was the minor who was the most brutal and wrecked the maximum violence against the girl who fought back with all her strength against her tormentors.

The police have appointed a special public prosecutor to fight the case and the charges have been upgraded to murder after her death. A fast track court is being set up to hear the case on a day-to-day basis as there is a huge clamour in the public domain for speedy punishment to be meted out and for justice not to be delayed.

After being thrown from the bus by the six men along with her badly beaten up male friend, she was taken to Safdarjung hospital by a policeman who had taken a blanket from a near by shop to cover her. By all accounts the blanket was soaked with blood in minutes and after three major surgeries which did not improve her condition, the government decided to move her to a Singapore hospital, which boasts of the best transplant services. But the girl is learnt to have had a heart attack in flight and the lack of oxygen to the brain resulted in brain injury along with the other complications in her condition.

Politically the condition of the young victim has become a hot potato for the government with large scale protests, dharnas, pradarshans coupled with the death of a policeman during one of the agitations. It is learnt that apart from the treatment, one of the reasons for sending her to Singapore was to give the city a cooling off period and take the heat off the entire agitation. The agitations, which begun with students taking to the roads, turned political, as hoodlums and political activists joined in to make political hay of the tragic incident.

Political parties are taken aback by the anger and the emotion that is on display. Political parties have welcomed the agitation with Congress president Sonia Gandhi sending out a televised message of her grief and pain at the death of the young girl, the horror of the incident and her pledge that the guilty would be awarded the strictest punishment and no one would be spared.

Visible during the 13 days was the initial floundering by the government, which, as is usual, woke up late at the virtual uprising under their very nose and the manner in which the home minister appeared clueless, lackluster and out of control. There was police lathicharge, teargassing, beating up of students and other agitators and then the tu tu main main between Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit and the Delhi Police Commissioner Neeraj Kumar. Dikshit wanted Kumar sacked for the police excesses while the home ministry felt this was not the time to abuse one another.

What finally emerged was that the government, bureaucracy and the administration were ill-equipped to handle an issue of this sort as they failed to instill confidence either at the political or the emotional level. Setting up committees to review rape laws or to fine-tune the responses of an ill-equipped police force are sentiments parroted in the past also. But it is usually a case of raat gayee baat gayee.

Will this case be any different? Will it be a turning point for India as its youth reacts and revolts against the insensitive nature of a system which has lost its way and can no longer distinguish the good from the bad, and the right from the wrong?

The police have failed to instill confidence, the judiciary has failed to deliver timely justice, the politician has failed to lead the way and show the moral high ground, and now the people have taken to the streets in anger, sorrow and in a bid to demand justice.

Will this incident become another forgotten story remembered only by the media when they are writing their year-end pieces?

Renu Mittal in New Delhi