MUMBAI: “I want no other woman in this city and country to go through such brutal physical humiliation. The perpetrators should be punished severely as they have ruined my life. No punishment short of a life term will take away my pain and the humiliation and physical abuse I underwent.” This was the rape victim’s first reaction as she spoke to her mother from the hospital bed soon after the gruesome rape assault on her by a gang of five in an abandoned mill compound.
The 22-year-old photojournalist said she wanted life imprisonment for all the perpetrators. “They have ruined my life and caused immense humiliation and physical pain,” she is learned to have told her family. Barely 12 hours after the horrendous crime, she was displaying “tremendous courage”, said a source close to the family. She was alert and closely monitoring each development as it unfolded on television in her hospital room.
The source told TOI she had started coming to terms with the assault. “She is mentally tough and determined to finish her project as it goes on display in the near future,” said the source, suggesting that she would go back to the assignment she was working on for the national magazine. She has been working with the company as an intern for three-and-a-half months.
According to the source, after spending a very restless night, the victim had her first cup of tea only on Friday evening. “She was on drips the whole night and on Friday morning,” said the relative adding that the news bulletins on TV only made her stronger. “She spent parts of the evening watching the news, which failed to ruffle her,” the source said.
The relative told TOI that her mother was initially unaware of the rape. “The victim herself called her up from the hospital and told her that she had met with a minor accident. The victim assured her mother that it was nothing to worry about as she did not want her mother to go through any trauma,” the relative said.
The victim’s mother suffered a shock on landing at the hospital and hearing about the news. “She was shattered and is still picking up the pieces. She continues to be in a state of shock and can’t come to grips with the fact that such a heinous crime could be committed in a city like Mumbai,” the relative said.
The victim also showed much courage in narrating how the perpetrators had tied her colleague’s hands to his back and pinned him to the ground before punching and kicking him. “The culprits first grabbed their mobiles, took their bags and ran a quick inspection. Though they found a camera in her bag apart from the one the male colleague was using, they returned their belongings, including the mobiles, once they were through with their dastardly act,” the source added.
The victim is also aware that an arrest has been made in connection with the case. “The family will find solace only after the severest of action has been taken, like life imprisonment, to deter such perpetrators from committing such heinous crime,” the source said.
The victim’s mother told the relative that her employers and colleagues had been very supportive, offering comfort and emotional support. “She also thanked the media and the state for offering support. She also said the media should continue the fight for women’s dignity and right to live normal lives,” the source added. “The mother also thanked CM Prithviraj Chavan and home minister R R Patil for the swift police action and arrest of one of the culprits,” said the source.
There was a time when Mumbai could justifiably take pride in being safe for women. It’s still safer than Delhi, but that’s cold consolation. The rate at which sex crimes against women are rising is unacceptable.
As our population expands and the ranks of the unemployed swell, as more and more people feel marginalized and disenfranchised, and as city life grows brutal, it is becoming increasingly difficult to ensure the safety of every citizen.
But that is no excuse for the precipitous slide we have witnessed in Mumbai over the past few years. This city has been a mute spectator to the collapse of governance and the decay of our once sterling institutions. Our police force has lost the respect and trust of the peopleâ€”and for that, our politicians are primarily to blame. Truth is, our netas don’t care about this cityâ€”for them, it is just a place to make money. Through a combination of petty politics, corruption and lack of vision, they have weakened what was once a respected arm of administration. Is it any surprise that Maharashtra has refused to accept the Supreme Court’s directive on police reforms, calling it unconstitutional?
There are lakhs of young women who go out everyday in Mumbai to make a living, just like the 22-year-old was doing. They need to know that the government will do everything in its power to ensure their safety.
Beyond that, we as a society need to ask ourselves: Is this the future we want for our children? If not, we must do whatever it takes to make the city safer for them.