Shroud of secrecy, double-talk, indecent haste expose leadership paralysis
THE girl who lit a fire in the hearts of billions was consigned to the flames in the early morning of Sunday, hours after her body was flown home from Singapore. In a ceremony kept out of the public glare, her father lit the funeral pyre in the presence of his relatives and neighbours in a crematorium at Dwarka at 7.30 am.
In a move that was viewed as too little and too late the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi were at the airport to console the parents, who landed in India with their daughter’s body around 3.30 am. The body was then taken to the family home at Mahavir Enclave in southwest Delhi. The 23-year-old Delhi girl, who was brutally gangraped in a moving bus, had waged a brave battle with death for 13 days.
Her cremation and journey back home was covered in a shroud of secrecy, as the government and police apprehended another wave of public fury against the ruling class. The police in fact wanted the cremation to be carried out in Ballia or Varanasi. The government, which was accused of being “insensitive”, refused the police proposal. The Delhi police also wanted the cremation done before sunrise, sources said. The police’s rush to get over with the rituals, however, failed following objections raised by the authorities concerned at the crematorium run by the New Indian Education and Cultural Society. As per Hindu tradition, the crematorium authorities and the family wanted to wait till sunrise. It was learnt that in a bid to maintain complete secrecy, the police approached the crematorium only around 10.30 pm Saturday. Sources said the crematorium authorities were asked to complete the rituals by 6.30 am.
Under heavy police bandobast, the body was brought to the crematorium around 7 am, along with the family members. After about half an hour, the father lit the pyre of his daughter, who only a few days back had said, “I want to live.” The mother, who refused to accept her daughter’s sudden death, was inconsolable and fainted several times. She clung to her daughter’s body and collapsed the moment it was taken away to the crematorium. Later in the day she was rushed to Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Hospital.
“Why this secrecy. What is the government scared of? It’s an insult to people who prayed for her,” said angry protesters demanding an answer. At Jantar Mantar, a little girl stood silently in front of a placard that said “I am not a toy, so don’t play with me.” As she stood holding onto the fingers of her father, the protest raged all around her. While some raised anti-government slogans, others chanted Mahatma Gandhi’s favourite hymn, Raghupati Raghava Raja Ram. Others, with black cloths tied around their faces, sat quietly in front of burning candles. Despite roadblocks and the Metro shutdown, there was no let-up in the protests as people continued to arrive at Jantar Mantar.
The protest venue, however, was teeming with paramilitary and Rapid Action Force personnel. Water cannons were kept ready for any possible unrest. Barricades were put up at the venue and people entering the area were made to stand in queue and frisked by policemen. “All for security reasons,” a police officer said.
“Every act that violates women’s dignity is rarest of the rare,” read a placard. Another wondered: “65 years of freedom? Is my country really mine?” Moved by the savage attack, some foreigners were seen sitting with the protesters. The movement is all set to continue into New Year’s Eve on Monday. “There’s nothing to celebrate. Not anymore,” said Shiksha, a college student, while lighting a candle in memory of the “brave girl”.
The complete apathy of the Congress high command became evident, when Rahul Gandhi, the man, expected to lead the party in 2014 elections remained perpetually invisible. This perhaps was Rahul’s chance to come out in the open and tell the country, “We are sorry, we will do the needful.” Instead, while Congress “vote catcher,” remained confined to his comfortable surroundings, the protesters seeking justice were thrashed, water cannoned and tear gassed.
The Congress-led government, which took all possible steps to the keep the vitim’s family and her last rites shrouded in secrecy is now angry with its union minister of state for HRD, Shashi Tharoor for floating the idea of identifying the girl and naming the anti-rape law after her. Congress has snubbed the minister and warned him not to air his views in public.
If the Congress high command snubbed Tharoor the girl’s family said that it had “no objection.” The home ministry, which had earlier said that it was “unlikely” that the law be named after the victim, later indicated that it was looking into the matter and no decision has yet been taken. The 23-year-old girl, who was brutally gang raped in a moving bus in south Delhi on December 16 succumbed to her injuries while being treated at Singapore.
Speaking to the media from their ancestral village at Ballia in Uttar Pradesh, the girl’s brother said: “If the government names the revised anti-rape law after her, we don’t have any problem. It will be a good idea. My sister’s name will remembered forever.” He also said that naming the revised rape laws after “will be an honour to her”.
Asked about the Delhi government’s job offer and compensation of Rs 15 lakhs, the brother said : “ So far we have heard about all these things. We have not received any such intimation from the government.” The brother, who has been preparing for his engineering sounded somewhat lost as he said : “I was preparing for engineering, after didi’s death, I have no idea what to do now.”
Snubbing Tharoor, Congress said “It is his personal opinion. Being a part of the government he should have given the suggestion to the government rather than making any such statement in public. Party forum is also open for giving suggestions.” Tharoor had earlier lost his cabinet berth following his tweets on IPL controversies. Distancing itself from Tharoor, the Congress said that “these are the minister’s personal views.”