She is being called the ‘brave heart’, ‘India’s daughter’, ‘beti’, ‘Damini’ and by a hundred other names. But the real name of the 23-year-old physiotherapy student is being held back though almost all those close to her know what she went through.
Under Section 228A of the Indian Penal Code, disclosure of a rape victim’s name is punishable with a two-year jail and a fine.
With her losing the fight for life in a Singapore hospital 13 days after she was brutally raped and assaulted by six persons in a moving bus in the capital, the demand for making her identity known and honouring her is gaining momentum.
On Sunday, Madhu Agarwal, who holds a record for the most number of letters published in newspapers, says hiding the identity of a living rape victim makes sense for her to live a normal life after the heinous crime. “But revealing the identity and photo of a brave gang rape victim, having taught a fitting lesson to deaf and dumb decision-makers and law-enforcing agencies of this nation, is now necessary for worship as an ideal for youngsters of this country.”
She said: “Without revealing the identity of the brave physiotherapy student, it may not be possible to honour her posthumously with the country’s highest civilian award for bravery, namely Ashok Chakra, an honour undoubtedly deserved by her.”
Ms. Agarwal also criticised the manner in which the young girl’s body was cremated, away from public participation, in order to drown the protests over the ghastly crime. “If bodies of political leaders can be kept for darshan for long, and samadhis created against norms set by the Union Cabinet, then it was the fittest case for cremation with full state honours,” she said.
Incidentally, among the National Bravery Award for Children given each year by the Centre and the Indian Council for Child Welfare (ICCW) to Indian children for “meritorious acts of bravery against all odds” are the two prestigious awards — the Sanjay Chopra Award and the Geeta Chopra Award. These were instituted in 1978 and given to a boy and a girl respectively. The crime committed against Sanjay and Geeta Chopra bears a stark resemblance to the December 16 incident. The accused, Ranga and Billa, were convicted and hanged for rape and murder. But the regime then, instead of hiding their names, decided to honour children showing exemplary bravery with awards instituted in their memory.
Their father, who was a Captain when the two children were murdered and went on to become a highly decorated officer in the Indian Navy, has all these years maintained a stoic silence on the issue. Now 78, the officer told The Hindu on Sunday that though it had been nearly 35 years since that crime took place, he still felt extremely distressed. “I don’t want to refresh those memories.”