SHE HAS had barely a few hours of sleep, but she is up early, standing on her second-floor balcony. These few minutes, breathing the chilly morning air, are her only moments of privacy on this Sunday that she has been dreading for three years. The juvenile convict, now 20 years old — the sixth person convicted of raping and brutalising her daughter in 2012 — is set to walk free today.
“My daughter and I would sip tea in the morning. We did not have a balcony then, only a porch that opened out to the street. There were always too many people in that house, so we woke up early to chat alone,” says the mother of the December 16 gangrape victim.
Watch Video: December 16 Gangrape: SC Refuses To Stay Release Of Juvenile
There are no idols or pictures of deities that she kept at her old home. She says she has stopped praying. “The Gods haven’t helped. Neither have the courts or governments. But I will keep fighting, I only depend on myself now,” she says.
The television starts blaring in the two-bedroom apartment, the morning news bulletin a sign that the rest of her household is awake. On Saturday night, after the Delhi Commission of Women (DCW) moved a Special Leave Petition in the Supreme Court, she, her husband and their two nephews, stayed up till the early hours, watching the news channels. She with her Nokia handset, busy taking calls from the media while she bit her nails in anticipation.
“I know this has no meaning, but I still hoped. I met the DCW chairperson earlier, she had said months ago that she would take this up. She could have gone to the courts in time. For me, once he walks out, I have failed my daughter. A hearing after that has no meaning,” she says.
She spoke on the phone to both her sons, one a medical student in Uttar Pradesh and the other studying engineering in Madhya Pradesh, calming them, and calming herself, after news flashed that the matter would be heard on Monday.
This was barely two hours after the family got home, after staging a protest outside the correction home where the juvenile served his three-year sentence. “The police grabbed us, and packed us into buses. We were not allowed to stay there. I do not like going to the streets, but what do I do? For three years I met important people, and went to courts. One day I went to the streets, and see the DCW rushed to the SC,” she says.
She is in the kitchen, preparing breakfast alone. There is another protest planned at India Gate today, and she does not want to be late. Till her daughter’s death, she kept a pallu over her head. Now, her husband, who had to argue with her to speak before the media in her first interview hours after her daughter’s funeral, has taken a backseat.
“Now I have to hold his hand, and bring him to protests. He follows my lead. I think everyone is losing hope, and I am fighting hard to convince everyone at home to keep fighting,” she says, serving parathas to the family as she discusses the day’s plans.
By 9:30 am, the first television channel crews have started to arrive. She leaves her half empty plate, and takes a plastic chair near the balcony, giving bytes, answering the same questions over and over again. She has given enough interviews to know the lighting here is good, so she sets the chairs here, she says. “Aapko toh set up mein time lagega main paani peekar aati hun,” she tells one crew, expertly maneuvering her way around the cameras. Her husband joins her after a while.
At the table, the nephews are curious. “Have you interviewed the man who will be freed? How does he look? Is it true he has a beard and paints? Does he talk about our sister at all?,” they ask.
After two interviews, during a break, she hears the conversation and walks over. “Is his mother waiting for his return? Does she know what he did? What about his sisters? Are they the same age as my daughter?” she asks.
Her husband walks over, perturbed, and leads her away. After a conversation in the kitchen, she walks straight past the table and to the plastic chairs, for the third interview of the day. On the TV in the next room, their interview to ANI is already playing. The table is cleared, and she bustles about, washing dishes, and quickly preparing a subzi for dinner.
The family hears that Section 144 has been imposed at India Gate. “We were planning to reach early, by 1:30 pm, and we called the media by 3 pm to ensure there is enough crowd presence before the channels come. But if they don’t let people gather, what will we do?” says a neighbour who is helping them plan the protest.
Calls are made as she and her husband get ready. After talking to activists and student organisations participating in the protest, it is decided that the venue has to be changed to Jantar Mantar. As frantic phone calls continue, she calls out, while adjusting her bindi and talking to her son on the phone. “Have you updated the Facebook page? People will see the old venue there and we will lose the crowd,” she says. Her nephew updates her. “No we will still try to go to India Gate first,” he says.
India Gate has a special place in the movement that her daughter’s death sparked. It was the venue where the first protests erupted in the capital, while the 23-year-old physiotherapy student battled for her life at Safdarjung Hospital. She did not see those visuals. She was too busy sitting outside the ICU, running behind every doctor and nurse who went inside. But she has heard the stories.
“If the boy walks out today, all that anger will be for nothing. I hope people remember that today,” she says.