He tied a dog chain around her neck, sodomised her, raped her, left her in a vegetative state, and walked away unharmed. She lived 42 years lying like a vegetable on a hospital bed. He lived those 42 years getting married, raising a family, and being a grandfather.
The victim was Aruna Shanbaug. The perpetrator, Sohanlal Bhartha Walmiki. She a nurse. He a housekeeping attendant. Later, she a vegetable, he a human being.
The judicial system protected him all these years saying they had no photo of him available with them and that he had changed his identity once he walked out of jail after serving a seven year term for assault and robbery.
Judiciary, police, executive, all the systems of this country forgot all about her. All the systems of this country terribly failed her. She died, failed by this world.
Yesterday, about a fortnight after Aruna died, Dhyanesh Chavan, a reporter of Sakaal Times, traced Sohanlal. He works as a labourer at NTPC, Dadri, Ghaziabad, untouched and unnerved.
It took 42 years, Aruna’s painful 42 years, and her death to even find out about her perpetrator leave alone punish.
If Aruna lived in these times, she would be taken care of much better. You would say even in these times, we couldn’t protect Nirbhaya. You are right. But it would be unjustified to overlook the aftermath of it. When did we last see such a revolution? Lakhs of people out on Indian streets for the same reason. Rallies and stand up protests on American and British streets. It led to the consolidation of sexual harassment and rape laws. Agreed that laws are inconsequential if not put to regular and sufficient use. Even the previous law which punished rape with just seven years’ imprisonment, was not properly used. Women felt treatened to report such issues more for social reasons than the fear of the perpetrator.
Though we can’t still be sure of the judicial system and the government being sensitive by default, new media has ensured a more aware world. The ordinary citizen holds the power to stir up a revolution for anything.
Aruna lived in dark times completely shut off from light. We live in a dark tunnel with light at the end of it. The light may only be getting closer provided we keep moving towards it. The laws are all there, stronger and more accessible. But unless we make an effort to know more about them and use them, they would turn out to be no better than free for all punching bags?
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If you, or a woman or women around you, are subject to domestic violence, sexual harassment, sexual violence, and other atrocities at home or anywhere else, here is what you can do.Know more