Described by the police as the most brutal among the six persons who raped a medical student on a moving bus on December 16, 2012 and left her to die, the lone ‘juvenile’ who escaped the death penalty now lives as a nervous man.
Lodged in a North Delhi reform home, he becomes jittery, cagey at times. He “sits glued to television” to gauge “how the public sees him now, or whether those who feel he has not been sentenced properly will bring up the death penalty issue again,” said counsellors who interact with him.
“He is nervous today,” said the superintendent at the juvenile home at Majnu ka Tila. “You see he knows there are people who are not satisfied with his punishment. He’s scared of people coming to the home and protesting or trying to get inside and hurt him.”
Still a teenager — he turned 18 last year and is approaching 19 — he keeps to himself and has become increasingly quiet since when he first came to the home.
“When he was brought here in 2013, initially he was scared stiff; It was like, ‘where have I come?’ He watched TV constantly, checked newspapers — he wanted to know what would happen to him,” officials said.
After he learnt of the Juvenile Justice Act and that it meant a maximum penalty of three years for him, he became more forthcoming, counsellors said.
“He grew arrogant and started talking about that night. Sometimes he told us tall tales of what he did — some of it was terrible and in some he claimed his innocence. We stopped paying attention to what he had to say, so he’s gone quiet again.”
Officials say he is a perfect example of how society’s neglect can lead kids down dark paths. The juvenile had no prior criminal history. He had no family in Delhi and had been residing alone since he was 11. “For six years he lived with no school, no family. In such cases, kids are liable to be motivated by peer pressure,” the counsellor said.
He visits the juvenile board every month for judicial officers to take stock of his progress in reformation; his last visit was on December 12, the counsellor said. “The judicial officers noted that he’s been good for months now. He’s learning cooking and painting. One of his paintings received a lot of praise from the judges and this encouraged him to continue with rehabilitation.”
While he’s reluctant to speak about his parents, he mentions his mother and worries about his family. Both parents visited him in the juvenile home last year.
The counsellors say their biggest worry is whether he will be able to enter society again. “We worry whether his village will accept him, whether he’ll be able to find work. We can rehabilitate him to our best efforts but ultimately he is a person and he must survive among other people. It is of imperative importance that society accepts that he has served his time and allows him to re-enter.”
But will he get reformed enough to be allowed to roam free in society? Only time will tell.