It was around 11pm when Asha Devi finally retired to her room on Friday, after a long day at the Supreme Court and several appearances on news channels. She was now away from the spotlight. There were no TV cameras, no questions, no noise.
She lay on her bed, with her eyes closed and it is then that it sunk in. She had won the battle that she had been fighting for the past four years.
On December 16, 2012, Devi’s 21- year old daughter was brutalised by six people on a moving bus. She died 13 days later in a hospital in Singapore.
Four years have passed since that day and for the braveheart’s parents, the journey to justice has been a long and tough one. For them the only motivation on most days was their daughter’s last words demanding punishment for the men who violated her.
Speaking to HT on Saturday, Asha Devi shares how the fight for justice was far from over and how her daughter’s memories are a driving force.
When you went home after a long day (on Friday), what was the first thought that crossed your mind?
When I closed my eyes, for the first time in so many years, I felt I was at peace. That my fight has yielded some result. That my journey has been fruitful. My efforts, my sufferings, did not all go waste. Earlier I used to get scared thinking that these men might walk free. But now, at least I am confident they will be hanged one day. There should be no mercy for them.
What kept you going?
That scene is still fresh in my memory. On December 16, she got dressed and told me “Bye mummy, main 2-3 ghante main ati hun (I will be back in two-three hours).”
Those words still haunt me. That wait has not ended. I know I will never see her again, but my eyes are still waiting for her. Hoping to see her again.
These memories have kept me going.
The worst time was when my daughter was admitted in the hospital with so many pipes running through her body. She asked me for a few drops of water.
She said her throat was parched. I picked up a glass of water, but the doctors advised me not to give her even a drop. They told me that her internal organs had collapsed and her body will not accept water. They said they can only give her fluids through injections and nasal pipes. To see her on the hospital bed, longing for a few drops of water, was the most disturbing scene. It still flashes in my head whenever I pick up a glass of water to drink. Why was she made to suffer so much? How did all this happen? Do you think I will ever forgive the men who made her so helpless. She was my brave girl and took care of everyone in the family. And I could not even give her a few drops of water in her last hours.
What was the hardest part in this fight that went on for more than four years?
The hardest part was that despite a tough fight, one accused was let off. Also, despite the verdict by two courts, including the high court, the Supreme court took nine months to uphold the death sentence decision. Every day I had to prove that my daughter was subjected to brutality and that she was not the one who was wrong here. How I felt through those hearings is almost impossible to describe. Earlier, I used to cry in proceedings when I heard arguments by the defense lawyers trying to put the blame on my daughter. But, later I realised I had to be strong.
The Supreme Court’s verdict came in our favour and we climbed another step towards justice. This decision has given us hope. It has reinforced my faith in the judiciary.
Is the fight over?
No not at all. This battle is just half won. This judgment has given me a strong hope that my daughter will get justice. I am now hopeful that if someone commits a crime, he will be punished. It may take time but justice will be done. It is very difficult, but possible.
Now, this fight is not just about my daughter anymore. So many such cases have been lingering in the court for the past 10 years. Like this case was tried in a fast track court, there were regular weekly hearing, still it took more than 4 years to reach a conclusion. In the Supreme Court, it took nine months despite the high court giving its judgment in our favour. So, I feel that all rape cases should be tried in fast track courts. Also the Supreme Court too should not take this long. We can understand that the lower court may take time, but when the high court too gave its decision, they why take so long? But we are happy that the verdict came in our favour. Justice has been done.
The convicts still have an option to make appeals? Your reaction?
The fight is on and I am ready to take up any challenge that comes our way. They may approach whoever, but I am certain that they will be hanged. If they approach the President and put forward a mercy plea, we will oppose it aggressively.
What do you feel about the Supreme Court’s judgment?.
The way the judge explained the intricacies of the case and put it forward before us, nothing could have been better. They just did not pronounce these men guilty, but through the judgment, sent across a wider message.
Through the judgment, they explained how parents should give good moral values to their children, how they should teach them to respect women in general. How in schools, gender equality should be taught. This judgment should be taken as a lesson by our society.
First, if they file a plea for mercy, we have to challenge that in court. And I will do anything to make sure they are hanged. I have reached this far and there is no going back from here.
Also, another very important mission is to help and support rape victims. Serious efforts need to be made to make sure that these victims get justice. Further, I wish to work towards stopping crimes against women and make this society a better place to live in. I don’t know if it is too far fetched, but then when I look back, I get motivated.