"My pain became my driving force" Asha Devi

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On December 29, 2012, when thousands of women with black tape in their mouths in the state capital prayed for the recovery of a 23-year-old graduate in physiotherapy who had been gangbound and mutilated 13 days ago, two people already knew it was over. One of them was the victim, Nirbhaya. The other was her mother, Asha Devi Pandey. "She knew she was going to die," Asha Devi says. She has spoken about that night a thousand times since then, but this is a moment she sparingly shares when she sees death in her daughter's eyes.

"When the police called the first time, I thought she would recover that it was an accident. But then I saw her in the hospital. An animal would have shown her more mercy – her scalp had been torn at the neck with the violence those who pulled her hair, her cheeks had bite marks, her lips only had blood, her thighs were swollen from the frequency with which she hit her with an iron stick, "says Asha Devi. It's been seven years, but she remembers every detail on her daughter's face from that time, every word she could speak. "When I saw her on the hospital bed and asked for a drop of water that I couldn't give her, the world ceased to exist for me." Nirbhaya died on December 29th at Mount Elizabeth Hospital in Singapore.

But when one world ended for her mother, another opened. After her daughter's death, intense public scrutiny became part of Asha Devi's life. The first time she stuck a lapel microphone into the folds of her sari, the first time she shot a camera in her face, the first time she was asked if she missed her daughter, she thought it was her last. "I didn't know it would take that long," she says. Today she is immune to the cameras. She has spoken at countless awards ceremonies, spoken to politicians, posed for pictures in court and spoken to huge gatherings of young students. In 2013, she spoke hesitantly, cried in the bathroom, waited for her to come on stage, and let others guide her. In 2020, she speaks with cool self-confidence, replies with text in between interviews and takes the time to comb her hair for a photo. Her husband does not give press interviews without her permission. Nor does she allow photos to be taken in all parts of her new three-bedroom apartment in Dwarka's Sector 19, which the family received along with 35 lakh compensation from the Congress government. Most of Nirbhaya's pictures were deleted when the police took away her cell phone and stick. There is a picture of her in the puja room.

Asha Devi was born and raised outside of Ballia in the east of Uttar Pradesh. She grew up with stories about violence and rape. "Men went home and injured women. Violence was an everyday story," she says. According to her, she "trained a little" and was married to Badrinath Singh Pandey in 1985, whereupon the couple moved to Delhi, where he started working in a pressure cooker factory in the Titarpur region of Delhi. When Nirbhaya, their first child, was born on May 10, 1989, Badrinath distributed candy worth 1,000 rupees. Nirbhaya and her two brothers grew up in a two-room house in Dwarka's sector 8. This was the house she returned to after watching her first English film. Life of Pi: shipwreck with tigeron December 16 with her friend Awindra Pratap Pandey in the Select Citywalk shopping center in Saket.

Nirbhaya's parents in front of the Apex Court on December 17, 2019. (Photo: ANI)

Nirbhaya, a physiotherapy graduate from the Sai Institute for Paramedical and Related Sciences in Dehradun, had just applied for an internship at St. Stephen's Hospital in Delhi. According to Awindra, now a software developer in Bengaluru, she liked to buy shoes and watch films. It was not uncommon for them to meet at the Saket mall. That evening she had told her mother that she would be back in "2-3 hours". After the film was over at 8:00 p.m., the friends drove from Saket to Munirka. They could not be transported to Dwarka, so they boarded a private bus around 8:15 p.m., as Awindra revealed in his testimony. There were six men on board, the youngest, who was only six months younger than 18 at the time, admitted that they had been drinking and were on their way "a night full of fun". The men, who initially pretended to be passengers, soon turned off the lights and overwhelmed Awindra. Then they alternately raped Nirbhaya, although according to the youth, she kept "crying and crying". Then they both threw off the moving bus.

When I saw her on the hospital bed and asked for a drop of water that I could not give her, the world ceased to exist for me

"I had no thoughts about this city when I first came," says Asha Devi. "I had a simple life. I looked after my family, believed in my children's dreams. I didn't stop my daughter from going out, she was a hard-working student." Nirbhaya was the child the family hoped for. Until then, her father had become a baggage loader at Indira Gandhi International Airport and worked in double shifts to earn 6,000 rupees a month. Despite his low income, he sent Nirbhaya to a private, English-language institution, Broadway Public School, for five years before moving it to a cheaper public school. To ensure that Nirbhaya could attend college, he sold five bighas in Ballia for 3 rupees, while Asha Devi sold part of their jewelry. "She was a simple girl, never asked much," recalls her mother. They were a petty-bourgeois family who wanted to live a normal life. The affection was unspoken, unspoken, but present in the choices they made for their children. "My mother would never get upset with me," Asha Devi says. "She would only take care of me. We did the same for our daughter. I never knew what monsters were out there."

Now the time before Asha Devi's daughter's death is over. "Nirbhaya's last wish was justice. That became my search," she says. She didn't know that this was the job of thousands of women and men across the country. "I didn't know there was any public support at the time, my life was limited to the hospital," says Asha Devi. "But one night the doctor in Delhi took me outside to show me that I wasn't alone. I saw hundreds there to support us."

Your new home offers you the luxury of space and facilities such as a fridge, oven and geyser. But the family of four is a little depressed, and Asha Devi admits that they are not talking about Nirbhaya. "We have a better life now, but not our daughter," says Badrinath, sitting in front of a framed picture of Indira Gandhi, one of the few possessions that she has brought into her new house. They also have the pink doll that belonged to Nirbhaya. The rest of her daughter's property is in the old house where Asha Devi's sister now lives. Nirbhaya's older brother Gaurav, whom Rahul Gandhi advised after her death and sent to the Indira Gandhi Rashtriya Uran Akademi in Raebareli, is now a pilot at Indigo. The family is protective and unwilling to provide the name or profession of their younger son.

Seven years of legal struggle against the accused have taken a different toll on Badrinath. He now has blood sugar and knee problems. He still works at the airport, but is now making tickets for 20,000 rupees a month. When Nirbhaya died, he had said in a press conference that he feared he would have no money to cremate his daughter. He mourned her death. It was Asha Devi who took the lead, who was more determined not to give up. "My wife was always strong," says Badrinath, "but after Nirbhaya, she grew stronger."

As she admits, justice, or rather death for her daughter's murderers, was the only thought she thought of. Even so, Asha Devi was unprepared for the upcoming trial, for the assassinations and accusations the defense would throw at her. "The case was quick, everyone knew what had happened to Nirbhaya. And yet he pulled himself out. How can you take pity on someone who knowingly tore out a young girl's guts?" She asks. She has been on trial with her lawyers daily for two months (two of them have been with her from the start). "I take a bus and the subway to get to the court. When I get home after listening to the vultures defending myself, I'm stunned. People taught me how to be a fighter . " She has never spoken to any of the accused.

Two other people have seen Asha Devi transform from an unhappy mother to a determined fighter. Rajkumar Singh, a retired army personnel serving in the Kargil War, was the first to see Nirbhaya when she was thrown from the bus and was bleeding on the street in Mahipalpur. "I visit the family several times a month. Ashaji fought with steely determination for her family. When I first met her, she was confused, now it makes sense, "he says.

Raj Kumar Anuragi is the other person outside the family who was initiated into the transformation of Asha Devi. He is a journalist and supporter of the Nirbhaya Jyoti Trust, founded in 2012, which offers legal aid and protection to women and their families affected by violence. "Ashaji has never been to court and has never left her house alone. But she has changed," says Anuragi.

When asked how the case changed her, Asha Devi says that she is no longer the person she was before. "People come and visit, but at some point you come back to everyday life. Nobody is with you all the time. You are ultimately alone in your head," she says.

Dr. Raman Deep, a psychiatrist at AIIMS in Delhi who has advised rape victims and their families, says that survivor guilt is a common psychiatric illness that families of rape victims experience. "The person tells what could have been, blames himself for surviving when the relative is gone, and blames himself for what happened," she explains. In contrast to mourning, which, as psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross described in 1969, is overcome in five phases (denial, anger, negotiation, depression and acceptance), the trauma of the rape is overcome quite differently and often never alone. "Our coping mechanism is like a bridge, if you put too much weight on it, it breaks," says Dr. Deep. "In the case of the survivors' guilt, there is an even greater trauma. First, there is a constant need for justice and room for improvement. Second, the last memory of the person is not pleasant and the survivor develops a personal sense of responsibility. Both question our mechanisms, and Acceptance is not easy. Therapy is crucial to regain control of your life and self-awareness. "

For Asha Devi, the world became her therapist. "When I go to college, young girls come to me and cry and say they are just like my daughter. I talked to a lot of people about what happened. So many come to me to tell me what happened happened to them. Only two days. " Some time ago a mother came to me and we cried together because she also lost a daughter, "she says.

But healing is not their priority. "I want my daughter's rapists to get stuck." FourMukesh Singh, Vinay Sharma, Akshay Kumar Singh and Pawan Kumar of the six suspects are scheduled to be hung in Tihar Prison in Delhi on February 1, 2020. Of the other two, Ram Singh is said to have committed suicide in prison while the adolescent was sent to an observation home for three years. A decision that Asha Devi and Badrinath fought hard against. At the time, many media reports said he was the most brutal of them all, but the Juvenile Justice Board's report denied any evidence of it in 2013. The youth from Badaun, UP came to Delhi to look for work and leave a life behind of poverty, a mentally disabled father and two sisters who worked as workers. Today he is a cook and works under a new name.

When the Patiala House court announced the death sentence on January 7, Mukesh's mother Ram Bai approached Asha Devi and said: "Meri jholi my mere pray ki jaan de do (I ask you to spare my son's life.) "She was confronted with what Ram Bai calls" cold "in her eyes." She later told reporters that I want to see her son dead because he is poor, "Asha Devi says." You son raped my child, I have no pity for him. Mujhe unko dekh kar ghrina aati shark (I feel disgusted when I look at her). "

The hanging, which was originally scheduled to take place on January 22, was postponed to February 1 after Mukesh petitioned the president for a mercy that was rejected. He then lodged a complaint with the Supreme Court challenging the president's final rejection. The court rejected the plea on the ground that it was satisfied with the procedure. Akshay then filed a healing motion with the Supreme Court on January 29, which, if refused, would allow his attorney, A. P. Singh, to seek a pardon. Vinay and Pawan have not submitted a petition yet. Nirbhaya's mother says that she is "tired". Any delay is another blow to their trust in the legal system. "People like Indira Jaising talk about human rights and ask me for mercy. For years I went to court, saw her there, did she ever ask me if I need help? How can you support rapists? These are defense tactics." Asha Devi says.

She has not thought about what she will do if her daughter's rapists are hung up. It is speculated that she will join politics, but she rejects this as a rumor. "Jab Nirbhaya chali gayi, only andar ki aurat bhi with gayi and ek ma khari ho gayi (The person with whom I died, only the mother stayed) "says Asha Devi." I don't know what I'll do when this is over. "

Endless night

It was seven years before Nirbhaya's rapists were brought to justice:

December 16, 2012: Six men rape and brutalize physiotherapist Nirbhaya and beat her friend Awindra Pratap Pandey in a private bus from Munirka in Delhi

December 18: CCTV recordings and bus details lead the police to the vehicle and accuse Ram Singh, who leads them to Vinay Sharma and Pawan Gupta. Mukesh is arrested from Karoli, Rajasthan. The youth is arrested from Delhi three days later and Akshay Kumar Singh is arrested in Bihar and taken to Delhi

December 29: Nirbhaya dies in a Singapore hospital to which she was transferred two days earlier. Murder costs are added to the FIR

January 4, 2013: The case is brought before the referring court

March 11: Ram Singh reportedly commits suicide in prison

August 31: The Juvenile Justice Board sends the youngsters home for 3 years

September 10: The judges at the session sentenced Akshay Kumar Singh, Vinay Sharma, Mukesh and Pawan Gupta and sentenced them to death

March 13, 2014: The Delhi Supreme Court upheld the death penalty, but the Supreme Court bank paused two days later after the convicts appealed

December 20, 2015: The adolescent is released from home work

May 5, 2017: SC Bank confirms Delhi HC decision to sentence those sentenced to death

November 9: Mukesh files a review request with SC; Vinay Sharma and Pawan Gupta do the same on December 15th

July 9, 2018: SC rejects requests for review

November 8, 2019: Vinay submits a request for mercy to the President

10th of December: Akshay files a review of the petition with the Apex Court, which is rejected on December 18

December 19, 2019: Delhi HC rejects Pawan Gupta's excuse that he was a teenager during the rape

January 7, 2020: Patiala House Court issues a death sentence to the four convicts; is hung up at Tihar Prison on January 22nd at 7 a.m. until death

January 14: SC rejects Mukesh's and Vinay's healing petitions. Mukesh asks the President for mercy

January 17: President rejects Mukesh's plea. The date and time of the suspension will be set in Tihar on February 1st at 6 a.m. Mukesh files a lawsuit in the SC against the President's rejection

January 29: SC rejects Mukesh's petition and states that he is happy with the process