“Uss andhere se ghabrahat hoti hai ab,” says 50-year-old Asha Devi Singh. It’s also December, a month that leaves her anxious. As December 16 inches closer, the uneasiness rises, she says. Five years ago, her daughter — a 23-year-old physiotherapy student — was gangraped by six men in a moving charter bus in the capital. Thirteen days later, she was no more. She would have been 28 this year, says the mother.
“Every time I cross a dark area or a deserted road, it reminds me of that day… every time I read about another rape, it reminds me of that day… sometimes while crossing such a spot, I feel like she’s still in the hospital, alive. It hurts me, scares me,” says Singh, seated in the living room of her Dwarka house. The family of four moved to this house in 2013.
The living room has a cabinet full of trophies and certificates that validate her bravery, her strength, her ongoing fight for justice. “People tell me to move on, that it’s been a while, that I have two more children. But I never let them forget, and I will never forget myself. Woh dukh hi meri taaqat hai,” she says.
Apart from seething anger in her voice, there is also a hint of disappointment. “All the changes seem to be on paper and ‘in process’. Installation of CCTV cameras is ‘in process’, more police patrolling is ‘in process’. Women and girls are still being raped, what changed? The city is as unsafe as it was five years ago. Justice is delayed, the culprits of my daughter are still alive… there is no fear in anyone,” says Singh. Over the years, the countless visits to the Munirka bus stop from where her daughter boarded the bus have left her enraged.
“It’s the same, it’s dimly lit. In the evenings, if I cross it and see a young woman there, I get scared. It’s as unsafe as it was when my daughter took the bus from there that day. But if you go now, you will see some patrolling — that’s what happens every year, a few days before and after December 16, the police show up,” says Singh.
She, however, sees a glimmer of hope in the women who are fighting back, and families that are not quiet anymore. “Before December 2012, fewer women spoke up… I see their voices getting louder now. That’s the noticeable change I have seen in the last five years,” she says. As she recalls the last conversation with her daughter in the hospital, days before she died, Singh fixes the maroon bindi on her forehead.
“When she saw me in the hospital, she asked me why I had not combed my hair and where my bindi was. I wear this bindi in her memory every day. It makes me feel closer to her, like I am conversing with her,” she says.