She is being called a hundred names. The ‘brave heart’, ‘India’s daughter’, ‘beti’ and even ‘Damini’. But the real name of the 23-year-old physiotherapy student is being deliberately held back despite almost all those close to her knowing what she went through.

Under Section 228A of the Indian Penal Code, disclosure of a rape victim’s name is punishable with a term two year jail-term and fine.

With her losing the fight for life at a Singapore hospital 13 days after she was brutally raped and assaulted by six persons in a moving city bus, the demand for making her identity known and honouring her is gaining momentum.

On Sunday, Madhu Agarwal, who holds the record for the most letters published in newspapers, questioned the logic behind holding back the identity. “Hiding identity of a living rape-victim does have a sense for a normal life of the victim after bearing the heinous crime. But revealing identity and photo of a brave gang rape victim having taught a fitting lesson to deaf and dumb decision-takers and law-enforcing agencies of this nation, is now necessary for worship as an ideal for youngsters of this country.”

She also criticised the manner in which the young girl’s body was cremated in secrecy to drown the protests brought together by the outrage over the ghastly crime. “If bodies of political leaders can be kept for darshan for long and samadhis created against norms set by Union Cabinet, then it was the fittest case for cremation with full State-honour,” she said.

“Without revealing the identity of the brave physiotherapy student, it may not be possible to honour her posthumously with country’s highest civilian award for bravery, namely Ashok Chakra, an honour undoubtedly deserved by her,” she said.

While the brave-heart’s name is being kept a secret to protect her identity, it is not understandable from whom is it being protected when her native village in Ballia has been praying for her well-being ever since the crime; people around her residence in South West Delhi have been openly airing their angst at the incident and recalling her down-to-earth and brave nature; and even the institute in which she studied in Dehra Dun has offered to refund her fees.

Incidentally, among the National Bravery Award for Children given each year by the Centre and 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 — which were instituted in 1978 and are given each year to a boy and a girl respectively for exemplary acts of bravery.

The crime committed against Sanjay and Geeta Chopra bears a stark resemblance to the present incident. The accused, Ranga and Billa, were convicted and hanged for rape and murder. But the regime then had 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 due to it. “I don’t want to refresh those memories.”

  • Madhu Agarwal, who holds the record for the most letters published in newspapers, questions logic behind holding back the identity

  • Without revealing the identity it may not be possible to honour her posthumously