OVER the last ten days, the national Capital witnessed unprecedented protests against a government, which apparently delinked itself from the aam aadmi and displayed a complete lack of sensitivity. On December 16, the nation was shocked when a 23-year-old paramedical student, who was travelling with her male friend, was brutally raped in a moving bus by a gang of six savages in South Delhi. Around 9 pm, she boarded a private bus thinking it would take her to her home in Dwarka. What happened in the next 40 minutes surpassed all possible norms of cruelty and savagery.
Six men, Ram Singh, Manukesh, Akashay, Raju and Vinay began passing lewd comments at the girl and her male friend. It also deviated from the original route. When her male friend protested, he was severely thrashed by an iron rod. The prime accused, Ram Singh then dragged the girl to the back seat and one after another five men raped her. If that was not enough, Ram Singh allegedly inserted an iron rod into her private parts and pulled out her intestine. Then they tore the clothes of the couple and threw them at Mahipalpur flyover. The nation was shocked. While the rape was being committed the bus with heavy plastic films and curtains drawn passed three police barricades without ever being challenged. Point to be noted here is that no private or chartered buses are allowed to ply on Sundays.
From Monday onwards Delhi was hit by a public fury, it had never witnessed. Thousands of people from all walks of life poured out on the streets of Delhi. They all marched to Rashtrapati Bhavan seeking justice. They wanted the ruling class to listen to their grievances. What they faced was a naked dance of police brutality and complete apathy by the Congress-led government.
The protestors were lathi charged, water cannoned and tear gassed. Police fired tear gas shells and resorted to lathicharge to disperse thousands of people who had gathered at Raisina Hill. Police first used water cannons to disperse the crowd but as the protesters did not budge, they used tear gas shells and wielded sticks. The area has been cordoned off and police reinforcements have been rushed to the Hill that divides the North and South Block, which houses the Prime Minister’s Office. Policemen were seen chasing people, many of them students. Some of the protesters resorted to stone-pelting too.
Apart from Raisina Hill, protesters converged at India Gate too. As wave after wave of students crashed into the police barricades demanding justice for the victim, who was struggling to survive at Safdarjung Hospital, not a single government representative came to meet them. The government turned a deaf ear to their screams. From behind the closed secured corridors of power, the government representatives indulged in empty rhetoric and doled out empty promises.
It took nearly a week of protests for Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to appear on TV pleading for calm and promising to make India safer for women. Many thought it was ironical that India’s most powerful woman, Congress party chief Sonia Gandhi, met a group of outraged students only after massive public demonstrations had been widely televised.
The violence could have been prevented if either Mr Singh or Mrs Gandhi, or even one of the young ministers, had gone to meet the protesters and promised stern action against wrongdoers and reform of India’s broken criminal justice system.
That was not all. The city police commissioner told a news channel that even men were unsafe in Delhi as “their pockets were picked” – a shocking gaffe that appeared to equate rape with pick-pocketing. Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde told another channel that ministers could not be expected to personally meet every group of protestors, “like political party workers or Maoists”, appearing again to equate ultra-left rebels with angry students, justly upset over the rising tide of crimes against women.
In a desperate bid to clamp down on protestors, the government shut down nine metro stations in the heart of Delhi. The government displayed sheer absence of communication skills to engage with a young, increasingly empowered and aspirational citizenry, who are demanding more from their rulers. “Young India, old politicians,” as author Gurcharan Das once described this dichotomy.
An article on BBC website read : “ Time was when India was known for its charismatic, mass-based politicians – Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi, Jayaprakash Narayan were just some of them – who could easily lead from the front. Today, there are only a handful, two of whom – Mayawati and Mamata Banerjee – are actually women. The reticent prime minister himself has never won an election, and Mrs Gandhi and her son and heir apparent, Rahul Gandhi, hardly speak to the citizens.”
The article added: “ When he was going around Delhi in 1947 after India’s bloody partition, Nehru saw Hindus and Muslims rioting. He jumped out of his car, broke the security cordon, ran into the crowd and stopped the clash. Mahatma Gandhi routinely travelled to trouble spots to stop religious clashes and douse tensions. Last week, not a single leader came forward to engage with protesting students demanding safety for women.”
Death of a police constable, Subhash Tomar during the protest gave rise to another controversy. While, eyewitnesses and a senior hospital official claimed that there were no external injuries, the first post mortem report released on Wednesday indicated that the constable died of heart attack triggered by neck and chest injuries. Tomar had collapsed during violent demonstrations at India Gate against the brutal gang rape of the 23-year- old victim last Sunday. He died at Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital on Tuesday.
According to the post mortem report, Tomar died of “Myocardial infarction and its complications that could be precipitated by multiple ante-mortem injuries to neck and chest produced by blunt force impact.” The crime branch of Delhi police has taken over the investigation.
The post mortem report stated that the constable “third, fourth and fifth ribs on left side had fractures and there was a mid-calibaculur bleeding at several places.” Police also claimed that “effusion of blood was present in tissues and neck muscles and ante-mortem injuries were caused when the body suffered heavy blows from a blunt object.”
“He had a lot of injuries. His ribs had fractures. These multiple injuries aggravated his condition and led to cardiac arrest,” Additional Commissioner of Police (New Delhi) K C Dwivedi said.
Before the Post mortem, Dr T.S. Sidhu, Medical Superintendent (MS) of Ram Manohar Lohia (RML) hospital-where Tomar was brought for the treatment- had said, “There was no major external injury mark except for some cuts and bruises. He came in the state of total collapse. Our doctors revived him as he was not stable”. Dr Sidhu has been asked to appear before the police with all medical records of Tomar who died yesterday after battling for life for three days.
An eyewitness, a journalism student Yogendra had claimed that the constable had collapsed while walking. Another protester, who helped the constable claimed that they had taken off his shirt when he collapsed and there were no marks of injury. “He was full of sweat,” she said. The TV footage playing throughout the day on Wednesday somehow contradicted police claim that Tomar suffered heavy injuries. The footages show, Tomar lying on the street and was being helped by two protestors. There seemed to be no crowd around him.
A senior forensic doctor however said that these post mortem report does not suggest that he was injured by the mob. “The injuries could have been due to a fall, cardiac massage, due to the medical and surgical treatment (giving intra cardiac injections) or even during transporting him in the ambulance to the hospital.” It was further learnt that the post mortem report has no mention that the death was due to any assault.
When contacted Yogendra, the eyewitness claimed that he was at India Gate with a female friend who too was injured. Yogendra said that he saw a policeman collapsing while running after the protesters. “We rushed towards him and began to tend him. Then I rushed to a nearby PCR van and they took him to hospital.” he said. The eyewitness said that he also went to the hospital in the same vehicle. “I saw him in hospital and his body didn’t have any injuries.” he claimed. The student further maintained that the constable was “not trampled or assaulted by a mob.” Maintaining the police claims were “false”, the eyewitness said that he was “surprised to hear that eight were arrested over Tomar’s death.”
Another eyewitness, Paolin also said that she saw Tomar falling down. “We removed his jacket and shoes. I asked whether he can hear me and then I asked him to breathe…He was sweating profusely and there were no injuries on his body. If we had not been there, he would have been dead on the spot,” she said.
If that was not all, politics has begun over the brutal gang rape.
The day after the protests subsided, political turf wars broke out in the capital over a complaint by a Sub-Divisional Magistrate that the police wanted to influence the statement of the rape victim, which would play a key role in the trial slated to begin early January.
Escalating the complaint, Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit wrote to the Union Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde demanding a high-level probe into the alleged misconduct by police officers. Delhi Police Commissioner Neeraj Kumar hit back saying that the East Delhi SDM Usha Chaturvedi had interfered with police functioning in the past and levelled similar allegations.
Ms. Dikshit has recently been critical of the handling of Delhi’s law and order situation by the police which is controlled by the Central government.
Earlier in the day, the Police Commissioner attended the funeral of 46-year-old Constable Subhash Chand Tomar, who after being grievously injured during the clashes between the police and the protesters at India Gate here on Sunday, passed away at Lohia Hospital in the morning. Mr. Kumar announced ex-gratia and monetary compensation to the constable’s family besides a job to one of the family members on compassionate grounds.
In a letter to Deputy Commissioner (East) B.M. Mishra who forwarded it to Ms. Dikshit, Ms. Chaturvedi said that the Deputy Commissioner of Police (South Delhi), Assistant Commissioners of Police of Vasant Vihar and Defence Colony sub-divisions were present at Safdarjung Hospital along with a huge entourage of police personnel when she arrived there to record the victim’s statement.
“They showed me a copy of questionnaire…and asked me to record them as facts in the presence of the investigating officer. That brief was far from the actual events of the night of the crime as discovered by me while recording the statement of the victim later. They tried to pressurise me to record the statement as per their convenience and when I refused, they misbehaved and tried to intimidate me,” alleged the SDM, adding that the police also did not allow videography of the statement on the pretext that the victim’s mother had raised an objection.
Refuting the charges, Neeraj Kumar said the police on their own had decided to get the victim’s statement recorded by an SDM in the wake of her deteriorating condition.
“The police briefed her about the case and also took her to the hospital where the victim’s mother raised objections on videography of the statement. We had not given any questionnaire to the SDM as being alleged,” said Mr. Kumar.
The Police Commissioner said had that been the case, the SDM should not have proceeded further and lodged a complaint instead. He further demanded a probe into the leaking of Ms. Dikshit’s letter to the Home Minister.
High drama as victim flown to Singapore
Confusion and panic spread over the condition of the victim of the brutal gangrape as the Safdarjung Hospital authorites on Wednesday cancelled the routine medical briefings twice in the day. Late in the evening around 10.30 pm, the 23-yearold victim of brutal gangrape was moved and flown to Singapore for specialised care and treatment. Earlier in the day the cabinet headed by the Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh had cleared shifting of the victim subject to approval of the doctors.
As crowd and scribes gathered at Safdarjung hospital, where the victim continued to battle for life, the doctors and hospital authorites refused to give any information about the victim’s condition. A senior heart specialist, who was rushed to treat the victim late this evening told this newspaper that “the condition of the victim was very serious.” With no health update rumours ran high that the girl had suffered a cardiac arrest, following which heart specialists were rushed.
Around 9 pm two ambulencnes were parked in front of the ICU giving rise to all possible speculations including air lifting the victim for treatment abroad. After an hour or so, the ambulence rushed out of the Safdarjung Hospital and sped towards Gurgaon.
Till late in the evening there was no report or any official confirmation of the victim’s condition. Around 8 pm a news agency ran a source based story which merely talked about the condition of the girl on Tuesday night. It read : “ condition of the victim deteriorated last night as her pulse rate reduced considerably but it recovered soon. She, however, continues to be critical but stable. She continues to be on ventilator support in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU).” Top health specialists, including Naresh Trehan, were attending on the girl and held consultations with the panel of doctors looking into her health condition. Barring this agency report, which spoke of the victim’s condition on Tuesday night there was no update on the victim’s condition on Wednesday.
By 5 pm as the crowd got anxious to know the condition of the victim a huge police contingent was moved into the hospital premises, which pushed the journalists out office of the medical superintendent. Security was also tightened around the ICU. The victim’s parents also remained in accessible throughout the day.
It may be recalled the 23-year-old medical student was brutally gangraped and assaulted with iron rods by a gang of six inside a moving bus on December 16.