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30 May 2020, Edition - 1782, Saturday

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From December 2012 to March 2020: The unbearable weight of being Nirbhaya’s mother

https://www.indiatoday.in/

A senior doctor came and told us that in 20 years of his medical career, he saved many lives, but had never seen such a case,” this is what Asha Devi, the mother of Nirbhaya remembers from that fateful December night.

As a Delhi court set March 20 as the fresh date for the execution of the four convicts in the Nirbhaya gang-rape and murder case, Asha Devi spoke to India Today TV about what really happened on December 16, 2012, and how the convicts have been mocking their misery.

Speaking about the day that changed their lives, Asha Devi recounts, “It was a Sunday and around 3.30 pm, Nirbhaya left from home and told me she will be back in 2-3 hours. It was around 8 pm that we could not reach her. We tried calling but the phone was disconnected. My son and I took turns visiting the bus stand but saw no sign of her.”

“At 10 pm, her father came home and started searching for her. We were still waiting outside when around 11 pm, we received a call from Safdurjung Hospital. The hospital told my husband that our daughter was there and had suffered some injuries,” she continues.

“When I reached the hospital, she was being taken to the operation theatre. When Nirbhaya saw me, she cried.”

“The condition in which I saw her — her entire body was drenched in blood. At the time, I was not aware of the magnitude of the crime, but we were told that six men had done something to her,” Asha Devi said.

“Her lips were split in two, the skin on her head was ripped open. Her body was full of cuts and bruises, blood was oozing out of cuts, and even the flesh was exposed in some places,” the mother remembers. “The doctor said he was unable to understand what to do, what to fix and what to mend,” she added.

“But we waited, she regained consciousness. We remained hopeful of recovery. Doctors told us only a miracle could save her, but we did not lose hope till her last breath. When she regained consciousness, she asked for water. But doctors told us there is no system in her body which can take even a spoon of water. Till date, I live in regret that my daughter was alive for 10-12 days but she could not even get a drop of water from this world,” Asha Devi tearfully says.

The never-ending fight for justice

Asha Devi spoke of the eight-year-long fight her family has waged to ensure justice for her daughter and the toll it has taken on them.

“In these past eight years, we first pinned our hopes on district courts, then the high court and when Supreme Court also upheld capital punishment, we thought now we will get justice. When convicts’ review was rejected in 2018, we ran from pillar to post for two-three months…I have never skipped any hearing. I left my family and only focussed on fighting this case. I had faith in the system and was hopeful of justice,” she says.

Convicts used the system to humiliate us

The March 20 order is the third time the execution date has been postponed in six weeks. As she runs from one court to another hoping for the ordeal to end, Asha Devi believes she has been humiliated repeatedly.

“I could have never imagined that criminals, who did such heinous crimes to my daughter and are on death row, could use their lawyers to humiliate us in this manner. They would say that the rapists have been framed. It used to hurt me and I used to feel that a crime like this does not just happen once, but again and again in court, in society, at home because we had to prove again and again that our daughter was raped,” she exclaims.

However, Asha Devi does not blame the men who did this to her daughter. She blames the system for letting them exploit the loopholes.

She also believes if justice would have been ensured on time, no one would ever threaten another woman with a fate like her daughter’s.

But Asha Devi is not afraid. “I want to make it clear that I am not afraid of death. I died the day these men raped my daughter.”

Convicts have human rights, what about us?

Asha Devi told India Today TV about how the endless legal battle in the Nirbhaya case has exposed India’s failure to safeguard its women.

“The postponement of hangings exposes the failure of our government in front of society and the world. Somewhere along the way, people like us are losing trust in our legal system,” she says.

Asha Devi adds, “When the noose is tightening around the necks of the convicts, their lawyers and their families suddenly remembered that they are poor.”

She also holds activists accountable for her plight. “These international human rights organisation just talk about human rights and back criminals. They write long articles to make a big name for themselves. They are doing business in the name of human rights,” she says.

Pouring her pain, at the end all she has to say, “These criminals come out on bail and burn, kill and threaten rape victims and their families. If you want to keep daughters safe, you will have to hang the rapists.”

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