Seven days after the physiotherapy student was gang-raped on a moving bus last December, a group that called itself 16 December Kranti etched a space for itself in the designated free speech zone of Jantar Mantar in central Delhi.
On Friday, when Additional Sessions Judge Yogesh Khanna awarded the convicts the death sentence, it was this group that catapulted the same words into the air outside the court, that led to a wave of jubilation outside on the streets.
With guttural appeals asking India to “Wake Up!” and signs fondly remembering the victim, the members of 16 December Kranti have never missed a date to mark their presence and call for death penalty.
“There is a rape crisis in every nook and cranny of the country. The government has done little to set things right,” said member Rajat Nagpal. “Those six attackers are beasts for what they did to that poor woman.”
Behind him, a team member held up a placard — “Boys, do anything (rape, murder etc.) you will be awarded a maximum 3 years stay at a ‘HOME’ because you are a child” — that clearly indicated the group’s thoughts on the sentence awarded to the juvenile convict.
In fact, as soon as the news about the death sentence trickled in, the group began to call for death for the juvenile too. “The boy was three to four months shy of 18. How do you expect a psychologist to reform a person who had done such horrible things?” said one of the members.
Minutes after the order, the mood outside the court, where some held up makeshift nooses and pictures of hanging bodies, shifted to target the juvenile.
“I have a friend who teaches in a government school. She told me that her students were talking about the juvenile being let off only with a three year sentence and how that meant they can do whatever they wanted,” said Satvinder Kaur from Akali Dal’s women wing. “I have made it very clear to my son that if he ever does anything wrong I will not stand by him.”
The verdict also made friends out of strangers. Rekha Chauhan (40) and Sapna Bhatt (56) found themselves standing next to each other and chatting while they waited for Friday’s verdict.
“I could have watched it on television, but I wanted to be part of the crowd here,” said Ms. Bhatt. “They should be given death. Otherwise they will just be sitting inside the jail eating rotis.”