Every scar on Shinder Kaur, who was thrown off a moving bus with her daughter at Gill village near Moga, speaks of the molesters’ brutality that killed her child.
Arshdeep Kaur, the girl who died, was just 13 and in Class 7, and her alleged molesters and killers are more than double her age. Her mother lies wounded in the emergency ward of Moga’s Civil Hospital. Her grandmother, Surjit Kaur, is on a dharna at the hospital. Her aunt and uncle want death sentence for the culprits. The family is shattered.
Even after 24 hours of the incident, Arshdeep’s father, Sukhdev Singh, welder at a private workshop in Moga, remains in shock, and could barely drag his feet from by his wife’s side to answer the queries from the media, politicians, and police. Tears rolling down his face, all he managed to say was: “Meri zindagi tan meri achhi beti de saah naal hi rukk gayi …mera bhai tuhanu sab das devega (My life came to a stop with the death of my good daughter. My brother will tell you the rest).”
Recollecting her last chat with her granddaughter, Surjit Kaur said: “She had told her mother to keep her trip to the maternal grandmother to just a day since she didn’t want to miss her classes. I wouldn’t have let her go had I known she wouldn’t return,” said the wailing old woman. Aunt Amarjit Kaur, who was closest in the family to Arshdeep, was calling her frantically time and again.
The victim’s brother, Akashdeep (14), who witnessed the horrific incident that took her life, has been sent to a relative’s house to come to terms with the tragedy.
Compared to Delhi braveheart incident
A group of students among the mourners recalled the Nirbhaya gangrape case of Delhi, which had also happened aboard a night bus and in which the victim had later died. “Private transporters are violating all safety norms that the Supreme Court has set. The latest crime is an insight into the deteriorating law and order of the state, where women and girls are safe no more. We will take out a protest march in Moga on Friday to demand strict regulation of transporters,” said student leader Karamjit Singh Kotakpura.
Around 3pm on Wednesday, Shinder Kaur had boarded the Orbit bus with her son, Akashdeep Singh, and daughter, Arshdeep Kaur, to go to Shinder’s maternal grandparents at Kotha Guru Ka village near Bhagta Bhai Ka in Bathinda district. The woman got into an argument with the conductor, Sukhwinder Singh, since in spite of charging the family for three tickets, he had handed her only two and asked for more money, which she had declined to pay.
As the bus pulled over at the toll plaza, another man, Amar Ram, joined the conductor and the helper, Gurdeep Singh, on board and started passing lewd remarks against the teenage girl. When the girl objected, the three started molesting her and didn’t spare even Shinder Kaur when she came to her daughter’s rescue.
The woman approached the driver, Ranjit Singh, to ask him to slow down but he pressed on the accelerator instead. The molestation victims appealed to the five or six fellow passengers for help that didn’t come.
A police report based on the statement of Shinder Kaur suggests that the driver opened the electric-controlled door; the conductor and his accomplices then pushed Arshdeep out; and as her mother tried to look out for her, she was also thrown off.
A few kilometers down, they let Akashdeep off near Baghapurana, telling him to keep his mouth shut; but he raised an alarm, at which the bystanders caught hold of the conductor and the helper, even as the driver managed to flee. The boy borrowed a mobile phone from someone to call up his father, while his rescuers from Baghapurana reached her mother and sister and moved them to a hospital, where Arshdeep Kaur was declared brought dead, and Shinder Kaur was referred to Moga after first aid.
Action committee formed, wants Orbit buses banned
A joint action committee formed to seek justice for Arshdeep Kaur and her mother wants a ban on Orbit buses controlled by Punjab’s ruling family.
Lok Sagram Manch, Punjab Student Union (PSU), Bharti Kisan Union (Ugrahan), Kirti Kisan Union, Bharti Kisan Union (Krantikari), and Democratic Teacher Front are part of this committee. “We have asked for Rs 20 lakh compensation for the family and a fresh first-information report based on the identification parade of the arrested people before Shinder Kaur and her son, Akashdeep Singh.” said PSU senior leader Karamjit Singh Kotkapura.
Members of the joint action committee have given the district administration 24 hours to act, after which they plan to start an agitation. “We also want Orbit Aviation (bus company) banned,” said Karamjit Singh.
Victim Arshdeep Kaur was from a Dalit family. Moga Civil Hospital senior medical officer Dr Arvinder Pal Singh Gill said that her mother, Shinder Kaur, was out of danger. “But to be on the safe side, we had referred her to Faridkot. However, her family declined to shift her and gave it to us in written,” said Dr Gill.
The protesting family and social groups didn’t allow doctors to perform the autopsy. They wanted all the accused arrested first, and since that happened only on Thursday evening, the post-mortem examination is delayed until Friday.