India’s Gang-Rape Case: As Accused Go to Court, Unease Settles over Delhi

  • Share
  • Read Later
Dar Yasin / AP

Indian women offer prayers for a gang rape victim at Mahatma Gandhi memorial in New Delhi, Jan. 2, 2013.

Five men charged with the rape and murder of a 23-year-old woman last month appeared in a closed hearing in Delhi on Monday after a judge cleared a packed and chaotic courtroom on concerns for the security of the accused. Before police filed for the proceedings to be held in camera only, members of a local bar association who had voted not to defend the men shouted down a lawyer who came forward to offer them counsel. Prosecutors say they have ample forensic evidence linking the five men to the attack, including traces of the victim’s blood on their clothing. Their trial is expected to take place in the coming weeks in a special fast-track court. The sixth man who has been arrested will be tried separately in a juvenile court.

The gang rape of a physiotherapy student on her way home from a movie on Dec. 16 has set India on edge for the past three weeks. Protesters in near continuous demonstrations and vigils in Delhi and other parts of country have demanded swift justice for the woman, who died of her injuries on Dec. 29, and her friend, who was also beaten on the private bus the pair were lured onto. As more details of the night emerge, a feeling of unease has settled over the Indian capital like the damp fog that demonstrators outside the court huddled in on Monday afternoon. School was out, so students were there in full force, soaking up scraps of sunshine on the unusually chilly winter day. “People’s malaise is deep-seated,” said Sarita Rai, a 23-year-old student. “The victim and her friend’s experience on that dreadful night has exposed Delhi-ites’ uncaring mind-sets. We put our self-interest above everything else.”

(PHOTOS: In India, a Rape Sparks Violent Protests and Demands for Justice)

On Sunday, the U.K.’s Daily Mirror identified the victim by name in a quote from the father, a move which he has since said he did not authorize. The father told the Indian media that he only condoned the use of his daughter’s name in the renaming of India’s anti-rape law, which is expected to be revised. Authorities, at first slow to respond to the public’s grief, have rolled out a series of measures intended to fast-track the gang-rape case and improve safety for women in India. In a letter submitted on Monday to all chief justices, Chief Justice Altamas Kabir called for more fast-track courts to be set up to process pending cases of sexual assault. “Time has come for these cases to be dealt with expeditiously, lest we should fail in our endeavor to arrest the sharp increase of crimes of violence against women,” he wrote.

The upheaval of the past three weeks has exposed other deep fractures, raising difficult questions not only about the status of women in India but also about increasing violence, widening class divides and the delivery of justice in the world’s largest democracy. The fatal assault on Dec. 16 has been discussed by the public and treated by authorities as a sexual assault, which it was. But the ferocity of what happened behind the drawn curtains of a private bus that night — and the outrage that has ensued — makes the incident no longer just a case of sexual violence. The unhinged brutality of the culprits necessitates more than greater policing of night buses and GPS tracking systems. It requires a frank look at the social conditions that led six young men to lose their grip on humanity and reflection on why the reaction to the horrific crime has included lawyers’ refusal to give the accused their constitutional right of public defense. “It’s symptomatic of the fact that as a country, we do not have a culture of abiding by rule of law and respecting the law,” says Vrinda Grover, a human-rights lawyer based in New Delhi. “The link has to be made that if we did believe in rule of law, we wouldn’t be in this situation in the first place.”

(MORE: Brutal New Delhi Gang Rape Outrages Indians, Spurs Calls for Action)

Indeed, a disturbing firsthand account the incident given over the weekend by the victim’s friend underscores the broader problems that came into play that night. In an interview with Zee News, the only witness to the crime said that after being stripped and thrown out of the moving bus, he and the woman lay exposed and bleeding by the side of the road for nearly half an hour as multiple vehicles passed before somebody called the police to help them. “The victim’s friend echoed the insensitivity of India’s capital, where passersby simply look the other way when they find somebody in distress,” said Rajesh Garg, a 22-year-old student who was also outside the courtroom. “Nobody wants a brush with law.” The witness went on to say that once the call was made, police took more than half an hour to arrive on the scene, argued over who was responsible for the pair and eventually took them to a government hospital farther away than private hospitals in the vicinity. The police have rebutted that version of events, saying their vans reached the scene within a few minutes of receiving the call and that police refer all medico-legal cases, of which sexual assault is one, to government hospitals that are equipped to handle them.

Since Dec. 16, the Indian media’s coverage of rapes across the country has measurably increased, not due to a rise in incidence as much as a renewed focus on a crime that is widely under-reported and has not typically garnered much attention when it is. Indian dailies are now giving the stream of incidents wider and more prominent coverage, emphasizing the fact that the Dec. 16 attack, though particularly heinous, was far from an isolated event. As the five accused were driven to court on Monday, for instance, a 16-year-old girl in the northern city of Allahabad was in critical condition after being set on fire by a boy who allegedly attempted to rape her on Saturday. That same day in Delhi, the body of a 21-year-old woman was found; her father says she was gang-raped and murdered on her way home from work the previous evening.

(MORE: After New Delhi Gang Rape, Should the Culprits Be Executed?)

This steady stream of distressing cases has not prevented an equally steady flow of tone-deaf commentary from some of India’s most prominent politicians and religious and social leaders. Indian media reported that Asaram Bapu, a guru, said the victim was to blame for not reaching out to her attackers as “brothers” and “begged before them to stop.” In its recommendations to a government commission set up to better protect women in India, Jamaat-e-Islami Hind, an Islamist group, suggested “sober and dignified” dress for girls and the abolishment of co-education.

The real fix for what ails the Indian capital, says Delhi-based sociologist Dipankar Gupta, lies in better law enforcement. As Delhi has spread and incorporated villages from the region, the city has inherited a mix of communities with clan-based loyalties, rootless migrants and a population that can “touch the fruit of economic development but not quite grasp it.” It’s a combustible environment in which crime, unfortunately, has been allowed to flourish. “In India, our law is not enforced,” Gupta says. “We don’t pick up small crimes. We don’t pick up large crimes.” The only way that India can change for good, Gupta says, “is not by holding hands and singing songs but through the law. Once the law is applied systemically, it becomes a habit.”

MORE: New Delhi’s Women Problem: What Does It Take to Make a Society Safe?

26 comments
Echoislander
Echoislander

Well, that was an idiotic comment, ChristopherCallihan

Echoislander
Echoislander like.author.displayName 1 Like

Sexual violence is normalized and naturalized in western cultures -- in the US, less than one quarter of rape cases result in arrest, and fewer in convictions.

ChristopherCallihan
ChristopherCallihan

Savages

mohan_dudha
mohan_dudha like.author.displayName 1 Like

@ChristopherCallihan Sick people commit sick acts with impunity every time they feel they can escape the law. This is true of child rapes by Catholic priests in the West, and it is true of violent rapes and the murders of the elderly in India.

archie
archie like.author.displayName 1 Like

It was stated once that the largest organized legal corrupt gang in the world was "Indian Police" and not the "Italian Mafia". In 1978, I was visiting New Delhi where I saw a speeding truck run over this man killing him instantly. The truck did not stop, in fact everyone looked the other way. As I looked at my escort to stop and assist. My escort held me back and stated- "most likely, your passport will be taken away by the police so that a witness is available if a need arises, when ever that may be in the near future or never.

Let the youth of India band together and bring this corrupt system down. Don't stop now, break down the barriers. If you don't, another child will be molested tonight, a women burned. A worthy student will be denied a passport to study abroad because he or she don't have the money to pay corrupt officials. I can go on... Let someone else pick up trail from here. Please don't stop.

elhoward
elhoward

This woman was literally tortured to death. Can we stop calling this a "rape" and start calling it was: torture and murder. The rape part was just to make it more humiliating to the victim. I honestly cannot understand how someone could be so blinded by hatred that they would treat another human being that way. Any punishment they give the perpetrators cannot possibly be harsh enough.

SridharReddy
SridharReddy

It is called the biggest democracy, but it is AN UN-EDUCATED DEMOCRACY.    


Because the meaning of democracy is lost when the citizens cannot atleast read and understand themselves,  than listening to some one else who reads the papers / documents wrongly.   Lot of high-tech and technologies are implemented in the country only for rich and rully.  If, only 10% of the GDP is spent on education (ie: at least reading if not maths/science/social)  we could have been 100% educated by 1970.   Even though we got Independence in 1947 we are still 55% educated.

Congress party is the political party which has ruled the country for 80% of the time and party President / PM is selected un-democratically.   There is no ballot on party president election rather it is unanimously elected which itself is wrong in democracy.  All these parties wanted people to be uneducated as much possible only then they can be mis-used in electioneering.


archie
archie

@SridharReddy The fundamentals of any democracy are: Legislative, Judiciary, and the Executive branches of the government. In simple terms- Rail, Mail and Jail. The British laid the groundwork for these essentials when they left India. The Landmarks and the Monuments which Moguls and the British left are still to behold. Despite having 29+ languages etc., India is still together. Thanks to the British- Rail, Mail and Jail system which kept it together. Democracy in India is a gift from British Raj to India. It is not a crap country, it's citizen chose it to be so. Always blame others while everyone is as guilty. If the people of India cannot do on its own, then sooner or later it will implode from within. Sooner the better.

NandaKishoreN
NandaKishoreN like.author.displayName 1 Like

@archie Are U insane, or intoxicated or misinformed?  What is Ur problem.  "British Rail Mail and Jail system kept India together in spite of having 29+ languages"? 

Please know that the principles of Democracy are imbibed in the Culture of India from time immemorial.  Mughals didn't leave India.  

I fail to understand how Jail system can keep people together.

Do one thing, firstly get some BRAIN, consult a doctor, U might be having some tumour.  That can make U think like this.

After U get through a proper treatment, take some good books on Indian History and read them.  Read properly the features of each dynasty which ruled India along with a detailed study into each great king, emperor and Nawab.

@SridharReddy 

Joey1111
Joey1111

@archie wow.. this is some history lesson. When did the Mughals 'leave'? Do tell. Now let me share something about British Raj. British Raj gifts to India also include the Mass Murders to suppress the rebellion, pilferage of India's wealth and finally the Partition of India. 

shersha
shersha like.author.displayName 1 Like


India
is a crap country with uneducated politicians leading the country and guarded
by police who will protect the rich. I moved from India for good 10 years
back and i am happy that i dont belong there anymore

sh_harsha
sh_harsha

If you feel that you are safe in another country and that you have escaped and do not dare to live here, then Please do not make any comments about this country also....

shersha
shersha

Harsha, I didnt mean to hurt anybodys feeling but we all have to accept the truth. I have freinds and family in India and i am worried about them. Looks like you never had a chance to deal with Indian police and politicians!! good luck living in India filled with communal riots, strikes and what now...rape :)

NandaKishoreN
NandaKishoreN

@shersha Being an Indian, if U want to call India a CRAP country.  If U don't want to come back to India.  If U have BAD wishes for Indians.  If U think Indians are unlucky.

Keep Ur thoughts for Urself.  But don't expect people to praise U for Ur un-patriotic comments.

Like I said before, anbody loves their home, their city or town or village, their country and their nationality.  U hate them, fine but no sane person will praise U for that and say, oh! what a great thinking U have.  If any foreigner agrees with U on Ur face, they'll turn back and laugh at U.

And I'm NOT Ur buddy, thankfully.

NandaKishoreN
NandaKishoreN

@shersha "... typical Indian thing to curse other person ...", how funny U phrase Ur ideas.What are U, not an Indian?

Whatever points I wrote are  nothing for U?  How cud U say, I don't have any words when I'm stating the facts about the reforms which the country requires?

And U talk about twisting the words.  U raise caste system, when I was practically questioning the safety of U in a foreign country.  

Like all the other problems, I mentioned above, we are trying to eradicate caste system.  I never said India is a perfect country.  I said we have problems and we'll deal with them.  We are dealing with them.  I'm not cursing U, infact U are cursing us that we have a little luck.  U r sick and U have BAD wishes for people.

I'm sorry to have corresponded with U.  Do U realize, U r like a Dementor of Harry Potter Novels.  Sucking the happiness from people.

NandaKishoreN
NandaKishoreN

@shersha Sorry! I'm not twisting words.  U r twisting the words, bcz U want to establish the fact that it's safe for U to live in an other country.  While India is unsafe.

OK, U r most welcome to think like that.  But WE most of us are living in India and are dealing with whatever is there in the country.  

U don't want to come back to India, fine, don't come back.  U want to think India is the worst country in this world, U are free to do so.  But don't share it with others.  It invites criticism.  

U know what, U don't have to do this, explain things to others, as long as U keep Ur noble ideas to Urself.

And U know what U are really sick.  I feel sorry for U.

Ur approach is negative and U infect people with depression.


shersha
shersha

Kishore, My intention was not to wish bad luck and you know that. you are just twisting words to look like i wished bad luck. I was giving a sarcastic reply to what you responded to me. Why the hell in the world i want to wish you bad luck when you have a little luck left. good luck buddy!!

shersha
shersha

Its so funny, I knew that your next comment would be that i am MAD, thats a typical Indian thing to curse other person mad if they feel insecure and dont have any words to talk back!! looks like you have to read Indian history, because you know something India started racism with religion and cast, and you are talking about racism in western countries when you are living in the worlds biggest racist country. in India every state shows racism towards each other more over you have a million cast who is racist among each other. if western countries has 2 category then you are talking 2 against a million. but you said something sensible that nothing is perfect and we are working on things to get better. so comming back to my old comment, accept the fact that you are in deep shit and work hard to get out of that.

NandaKishoreN
NandaKishoreN

@shersha But surely Ur earlier comment, and I quote "I am sure i will live long if i stay healthy, but you people in India need more luck than me to live longer ...", was indeed a very BAD thing to say.

U don't like India.  U r most welcome NOT to like it.  But don't wish BAD.

People live in this country.  There's happiness and there's misery.  There's danger and there's safety in lives.  

If there are communcal riots and pollution and poverty in India, there's racism in the western world.  Just go through how many Indians died lately in the Western Countries, due to racist attacks, USA, UK, Australia just google and find out before being soooo happy about NOT living in India.


NandaKishoreN
NandaKishoreN

@shersha Consult a GOOD Psychiatrist.  U need counselling.

Indian Police Service is NOT perfect.  We need reforms in IPS.  Activists and retired IPS are stressing on serious changes in the way Police personnel are trained.  People are stressing on Police being made more public-friendly and compassionate.

We need election reforms.  And we hope it solves many problems.  We need our Govts to make our Hospitals and Schools better.  We badly need educational reforms.

If Ur house it dirty U clean it, U don't desert it. U don't spit on it.

There's inflation, prices will increase.  It happens across the world in any developing economy.  Sometimes it'll be more and sometimes less.  Sometimes it pinches the pockets of common man.  We deal with it.

Nothing is perfect.  We can't make it overnight.  But a strong sense of awareness has developed among intellectuals as well as the youth.  That's what is important.

Ur comment doesn't make U a BAD person.  It makes U a MAD person.


shersha
shersha

Ok, Let me make you and my fellow brothers in India happy. Indian govt and police doing a great job in protecting fellow citizens, people below poverty line is well taken care by India govt giving them food and shelter and not letting them to live on the streets. Indian govt spending millions to bring down inflation (5 years ago 1kg rice was less than 10 RS now it is 35 Rs) Good JOB!! Thanks to all the good facilities in govt hospitals finally for young generations we have good govt schools with facilities better than private schools so that middle class people can give their kids good schooling. Continue to ellect and make them our leaders. Good Luck brothers, does this makes me good person?

NandaKishoreN
NandaKishoreN

@shersha Oh! really, that's what U can come with, wishing death to all the Indians.  What a disgrace being an Indian born!

Seriously! if really Ur family is in India and U were born in India, I don't understand how U can spill so much venom against this nation, 


shersha
shersha like.author.displayName 1 Like

I am sure i will live long if i stay healthy, but you people in India need more luck than me to live longer any time may be because of a communal riot or because mumbai people dont like UP guys or you might even die because of some random reason (like went hospital on a strike day) and nobody will care for what happened. dude this country is messed up!! instead of defending yourself accept the fact and work to clean the mess. Another news i just read 2 indian soldgiers were killed by PAK troops in INDIA border, Indian politicians will give a shit about that!!!  Again you asked me a favor to not return to India, I promise you that i will not, Thanks

NandaKishoreN
NandaKishoreN

@shersha I understand, U didn't mean to hurt anybody's feelings. Just like DIM oh! sorry KIM Kardashian called Indian food "soooo disgusting".

...

Seriously! if U hv Ur family in India, and U are an Indian, how cud U even think (leave away writing) "India is a CRAP country"?

@sh_harsha is right, if U dare not to live here, don't bother about the country.  Leave us as we are here.  We'll deal with whatever is here.

And it's not just U who are happy that U don't belong here anymore.  We all are happy that U don't belong here anymore.  Do one small favour.  Never return back.  Live a long wonderful life wherever U are and die there when death comes for U.

anony
anony

In an interview with Zee News, the only witness to the crime said that after being stripped and thrown out of the moving bus, he and the woman LAY exposed and bleeding by the side of the road for nearly half an hour as multiple vehicles passed before somebody called the police to help them.

Dear editor - do your job.

mohan_dudha
mohan_dudha like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 3 Like

The police in India isn't used to protect citizens. It was designed to protect British officials during the colonial period and none of those laws has been changed in any substantial way. It basically means that they focus on being bodyguards for politicians. For civilians, they are basically an armed gang. If you are in distress, you can call on this armed gang, but they will demand their pound of flesh. The moment you try to help someone in distress, it is an absolute certainty that the police will immediately try to enmesh you in the affair and you will have to bribe them to get out of it. This is why people in the unpoliced rural areas of India are actually much more forthcoming to help people in trouble than in the cities. On every measure, crime in cities which are growing goes off the charts in India. Kidnapping, murder of older people, rapes, burglaries are all up in Delhi. The police is minimally helpful. It is absolutely disgusting. What the author is identifying is something very basic. If you have no law and order, you'll even accept the Taliban. What you're seeing is people who have no effective police support now becoming vocal supporters of state vigilantism. In any case, Indians have always supported death for rape, so that is not new. Every social movement - including Anna Hazare's - demands it. People will settle for something more reasonable as long as they see swift and effective punishment for criminals who attack women.