In less than six months, the boy convicted of raping and killing a 23-year-old woman in the infamous Delhi bus gangrape case will walk free. Now a young man of 20, he doesn’t want to leave the “safety” of the reform home he has spent the last two-and-a-half-years in, afraid he will be “lynched” the moment he steps outside.
Welfare officers and counselors at the correctional facility for young offenders in Majnu Ka Tila say the ‘juvenile’ is a changed person, and the home’s most disciplined inmate. He has turned religious, growing a beard and offering namaz five times a day. He is observing the Ramzan fast too.
Cooking is what he enjoys doing most. “He prepares Iftar (evening meal to break Ramzan fast) for other inmates. In fact, he has become a leader of those observing the fast, collecting their names every evening and asking them what they would like to eat. He is a very good cook,” said a welfare officer who did not wish to be named.
Out of the 50 inmates, around 10-12 observe the fast every day, and he cooks for them.
Initially kept isolated, he has been sharing a room for nearly a year now with another youngster who was apprehended for the 2011 Delhi high court blast that killed 17 people and left scores injured.
An employee at the home said he earlier refused to talk to anyone and took months to get comfortable with the staff, but has forged a friendship with his roommate.
He speaks to his mother once a month.
“He has little interest in studying and the only thing he has learned here is to write his name. Cooking is his passion and he is always there to give a final touch to dishes prepared by the kitchen staff. Inmates often demand food prepared by him,” said the officer.
During his stay, he has also picked up tailoring and painting.
Just under 18 years old when he was apprehended in December 2012 for the gang rape that shocked Delhi and the entire world with its brutality, the boy was tried separately and sentenced to three years in the reform home — the maximum punishment for a juvenile offender. Of the other five accused, four are now on death row while one was found dead in Tihar jail in a suspected suicide.
“After seeing his behavior here for these two-and-a-half years, no one can say he has committed rape. He is one of the most disciplined children. He never gets involved in any violence,” said the welfare officer.