She had waited 11 years for this day, when the balance of justice would finally tilt in her favour. And she wasn’t going to spend it hiding behind a veil.
When the victim of the Ashiana gang rape arrived at the All India Democratic Women’s Association office in the state capital on Wednesday, she seemed dressed for a celebration. Clad in a saree with her hair flowing glamorously down her shoulders, the woman sat on a chair with her fists clenched — breathlessly waiting for the phone to ring and deliver a long-awaited message that would finally liberate her from years of pent-up anger.
But when the call did come around 4.30 pm, she remained seated in silent acknowledgment. Only the most observant of eyes would have noticed the shadow of a smile that flickered across her face, followed by a slight tremble of her body. Then the moment passed, and she regained her composure.
Over a decade has passed, but memories of that fateful night continue to haunt the gang rape victim. “I still remember how, on May 2, 2005, Gaurav Shukla and his friends pulled me into a moving car and pinned me to a seat. They stripped me and subjected me to every kind of brutality, from inserting a gun into my private parts to stubbing me with cigarette butts. I kept crying for mercy, but they wouldn’t listen. It was party time for them... they took turns to rape me amid loud music, liquor and laughter,” she says, running her fingers through her hair.
She pauses. “It’s my turn to celebrate today.”
The years leading up to Shukla’s conviction have been hard. “I suffered every single day through these years, and the judicial delays only added to my anxiety. I want nothing less than life imprisonment for Shukla. I want him to suffer for years—the way I have been suffering for more than a decade,” she says.
And from now on, the veil that covered her face would be cast aside. “I want to show the world that I never committed any wrong, and the one who did are now behind bars. I want to face the world as a fighter, not hide as a victim of rape,” she exclaims.
The woman, who was just 13 at the time of the incident, is now a Class 11 student. She wants to become a judge, and for a very specific reason too. “If I succeed, I will first scrap the practice of taking multiple statements from a rape victim. Her statement should be taken just once, and a recording must be used for future references. The law must understand that each time a rape victim is made to narrate her experience, she is made to undergo it all over again,” she says.
According to her, the inordinate delays that plague the judicial system should also be done away with. “I had to wait 11 years for justice,” she says. “The present system of delayed justice lets the perpetrator move around freely while the rape victim is forced to suffer.”
Happiness has been a distant dream for the woman’s family ever since the incident occurred. “They were fed up. They would sometimes suggest packing up and going back to our village in Assam. But I always refused. I had decided to fight till the end, no matter how many hurdles came my way,” she says.
Four of the accused were convicted earlier, and two of them even died, but the woman couldn’t be satisfied until Shukla was punished. But now that her tormenter is convicted, she plans to go to Ajmer Sharif and offer prayers to the Almighty.
The judgment , she says, goes to prove a simple fact of life. “No lie, no degree of influence can overpower the truth. Money cannot save a rapist either, and Shukla’s conviction has shown just that.”