On 16 December 2012 a female physiotherapy intern was beaten and gang raped in Delhi. She died from her injuries thirteen days later while undergoing emergency treatment in Singapore for brain and gastrointestinal damage. After watching a film in South Delhi in the early evening, she and a male companion had boarded a bus, which was being driven as an unauthorized “joyride”, thinking it was a public bus. The only other passengers on the bus were five men who were friends of the driver. All six, including the driver, were charged in connection with the assaults and have been arrested. After the attack, she was taken to Safdarjang Hospital, received multiple surgeries, and was placed on mechanical ventilation.
On 26 December, she was moved to Singapore for further treatment, where she died on 29 December. The incident has generated international coverage and was condemned by the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women, who called on the Government of India and the Government of Delhi “to do everything in their power to take up radical reforms, ensure justice and reach out with robust public services to make women’s lives more safe and secure”. Public protests took place in Delhi, where thousands of protesters clashed with security forces. Similar protests took place in major cities throughout the country.
The victims, a 23-year old woman and her male friend, were on their way home after watching the film Life of Pi in Saket in South Delhi. They boarded a chartered bus at Munirka for Dwarka that was being driven by joyriders at about 9:30 pm. The minor among the accused had called for passengers telling them that it was going towards their destination. The woman’s friend became suspicious when the bus deviated from its normal route and its doors were shut. When he objected, the group of six men already on board taunted the couple, asking what they were doing alone at such a late hour. When the male victim tried to intervene, he was beaten, gagged and knocked unconscious with an iron rod. The men dragged the woman to the rear of the bus, beating her with the rod and raping her while the bus driver continued to drive.
Medical reports later suggested that the woman suffered serious injuries to her abdomen, intestines and genitals due to the assault, and doctors say that the damage indicates that a blunt object (suspected to be the iron rod) may have been used for penetration. That rod was later described by police as being a rusted, L-shaped implement of the type used as a wheel jack handle. According to the International Business Times, a police spokesman said that the youngest attacker “sexually abused his victim twice and ripped out her intestines with his bare hands.” According to police reports the woman attempted to fight off her assailants, biting three of the attackers and leaving bite marks on the accused men. After the beatings and rape ended, the attackers threw both the victims from the moving bus.
Then the accused allegedly tried to drive the bus over the woman but she was pulled aside by her male friend. One of the perpetrators later cleaned the vehicle. Police impounded it the next day. The victims were found by a passerby on the road, partially clothed and unconscious, around 11 pm. The passerby phoned the Delhi Police, who took the couple to a hospital, where the female victim was given emergency treatment and placed on mechanical ventilation. She was found with only 5% of her intestines left inside of her. A doctor at the hospital later said that the “rod was inserted into her and it was pulled out with so much force that the act brought out her intestines also. That is probably the only thing that explains such severe damage to her intestines.”
The female victim was born and raised in Delhi while her parents were from a small village in the Ballia district of Uttar Pradesh. Her father, who sold his agricultural land to educate her, works for a private company as a loader in Delhi. Complying with Indian law, the real name of the victim was initially not released to the media, so pseudonyms were used for her by various media houses instead, including Jagruti(“awareness”), Amanat (“treasure”), Nirbhaya (“fearless one”), and Damini (“lightning”, after the 1993 Hindi film Damini), although some media commentators have questioned the judgement of using pseudonyms for her.
The male victim is 28 years old, from Gorakhpur, Uttar Pradesh, and lives in Ber Sarai, New Delhi. Delhi police registered a criminal case against the editor of a Delhi based tabloid for disclosing the female victim’s identity, as such disclosure is an offence under section 228(A) of Indian Penal Code. Shashi Tharoor, union minister, suggested that if the parents had no objection, her identity could be made public, with a view to showing respect for her courageous response by naming future laws after her, but Tharoor’s remark created controversy. Later, her father and brother said that “if her name is made public for this purpose, they have no objection to it” as well as “if the government names the revised anti-rape law after her, they have no objection and it would be an honor to her”.
Treatment and death
On 19 December 2012, the woman’s damaged intestines were resected due to risk of gangrene, and she received intravenous nutrition and medication. On 21 December 2012, the government appointed a committee of physicians to ensure she received the best medical care. By 25 December 2012, she remained intubated, on life support and in critical condition. Doctors stated that the internal bleeding had been controlled to an extent, but her increased bilirubin level (suggesting hepatic dysfunction or hemolysis) was a “serious cause of concern”. At a cabinet meeting chaired by Manmohan Singh on 26 December, the decision was made to fly her to Mount Elizabeth Hospital in Singapore for further care. Mount Elizabeth is a multi-organ transplant speciality hospital. The decision to move the patient while she was still in critical condition has been criticised for being purely political.
Doctors have questioned the need to transfer an ICU patient for organ transplants that were not scheduled for weeks or even months later. Government sources indicate that the Chief Minister of Delhi, Sheila Dikshit, was personally behind the decision. Hours earlier, Union Minister P. Chidambaram had stated that the woman was not in a condition to move. Some reports suggest that the decision to shift was taken when it was already clear that she would not survive the next 48 hours. During the six-hour flight by air-ambulance to Singapore, at 30,000 feet (9,100 m), the woman suddenly went into a near collapse.
Her blood pressure dipped alarmingly, and doctors on the flight had to create an arterial line to stabilize her. That the doctors were able to perform this procedure in-flight was considered a medical feat. However, the victim never regained consciousness in Singapore. On 28 December 2012, at 11 am (IST), her condition was “extremely critical” and the Chief Executive Officer of the Mount Elizabeth Hospital said that the woman suffered brain damage, pneumonia, abdominal infection, and that she was “fighting for her life.” Her condition continued to deteriorate, and she died of a cerebral edema at 4:45 am on 29 December, Singapore Standard Time (2:15 am, 29 December, IST; 8:45 pm, 28 December, UTC). Her body was cremated on 30 December 2012 at Delhi under high police security. The government denied access to the media and the public. The “fortification” of Delhi was criticised by many, including the main opposition party of India.
Police found and arrested some of the suspects within 24 hours. From highway CCTV recordings, a description of the bus, a white privately operated charter bus with a name written on it, and details of the windows, blinds, and seats could be seen. Going to the bus stand where the victims boarded it, other operators identified it as being contracted by a south Delhi private school. They then traced it and found its driver, Ram Singh. Police obtained sketches of the assailants with the help of the male victim, and used a cell phone stolen from the pair to find one of them. Six men have been arrested in connection with the incident: Ram Singh, the bus driver, and his brother, Mukesh Singh, were both arrested in Rajasthan; Vinay Sharma, an assistant gym instructor, was arrested in Delhi, as was Pawan Gupta, a fruit seller; Mohammad Afroz (aka Raju), a 17 years and 8 month old minor and native of Uttar Pradesh was arrested by the police at Anand Vihar terminal in Delhi; Akshay Thakur, a man who had gone from Bihar to Delhi seeking work, was arrested in Aurangabad in Bihar.
The group had been eating and drinking together and “having a party” earlier that day. Mohammad Afroz (aka Raju) had only met the others that day. Although the charter bus which Ram Singh drove on weekdays was not permitted to pick up public passengers or even to operate in Delhi because of its tinted windows, they decided to take it out “to have some fun”. With Mukesh Singh driving, they first picked up a carpenter who was charged Rs. 10 for a ticket and then robbed of Rs. 8,000 and ejected in South Delhi.
They then turned back and a half hour later, picked up the couple who were charged Rs. 10 each. Ram Singh was presented before the Metropolitan Magistrate on 18 December 2012. Mukesh Singh, who was placed in Tihar Jail after his arrest, was assaulted by other inmates and was kept in solitary confinement for his own protection. Ram and Mukesh Singh are from Ravidas camp, a slum in South Delhi. Ram Singh suffers from a substantial disability in his right arm, sustained after a bus accident for which he had sought compensation. He refused to participate in an identification process. Shortly after the attacks, Gupta said he accepted his guilt and should be hanged.
Courtney from Study Moose
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