A 23-year-old physiotherapy intern/a rape victim/Delhi gangrape victim/Damini/Nirbhaya-she has been called many names over a period of six years. Nirbhaya, a native of Uttar Pradesh, moved to Delhi with her family after her father got a job at the Palam airport. On the night of December 16, 2012, she went out for a movie with her friend and never came back. She was brutally raped by six men on a moving bus. An iron rod was inserted into her body and her guts came out. She lied helpless on the streets of Delhi. The news spread like wildfire. Later, she was sent to Singapore for treatment where she breathed her last on December 29, 2012. The entire nation, men and women, rich and poor, everyone stood united to protest against the brutal crime, to demand justice for her. While some people hailed her as a hero, some called her a victim. The media named her Nirbhaya (fearless). But what was she? A hero or a victim?
What Made Her a Victim?
She was a victim of brutal gangrape and she eventually died. She was also a victim of misogyny that calls for women to be ‘put in their place’ if they go against the set patriarchal order - like one of the accused confessed in BBC’s documentary - India’s Daughters.
But we say she was a hero.
Nirbhaya’s mother Asha Devi very bravely said in an interview that she is not ashamed of taking her daughter’s name. Asha Devi, a woman, hailing from Ballia district of Uttar Pradesh, with probably very limited education and exposure, refused to give in to a society that shames women who become victims of sexual violence. She on the other hand put up a brave fight. Along with her husband and Nirbhaya’s father Badri Nath Singh, she battled for the justice of their daughter. They attended the trials, appeared on television interviews and openly spoke to the press. Though distraught, her parents fought with utmost courage. Today the Supreme Court passed a judgement upholding the order of death sentence to the convicts in the Nirbhaya case. The parents emerged victorious. Their daughter got the justice she deserved. Nirbhaya was their hero because the injustice done to her strengthened her parents to become an example for her society.
She fought till December 29. Despite an iron rod having been inserted into her body, the emotional and mental trauma, the physical strain, she fought her battle for days before succumbing to the injuries. Not just that, she also spoke for herself. She recorded her statement and narrated the incident to the police while in hospital. With that emotional, physical and mental courage, Nirbhaya indeed was a hero.
Today, Nirbhaya has won yet another battle. And it is not just a victory for her, but for all the women in the country. It is a victory of justice. Nirbhaya may not be a hero in the traditional sense of it, but she indeed is a hero. She fought till her last breath and her parents continue to fight for her.