By Abhimanyu Singh for Youth Ki Awaaz:
Asha Devi wants justice. For her, that means, to start with, that the imminent release of the juvenile rapist should be stopped.
A petition was filed in the Delhi High Court on Monday (14th December) by BJP leader Subramaniam Swamy, claiming that the juvenile rapist, who is to be released on 20 December, had been radicalised during his internment and his release should be stopped for that reason. His petition is based on a report by the Intelligence Bureau, stating the same. The Centre is of the same opinion. The High Court is likely to take a decision before the due date of release.
Youth Ki Awaaz spoke to Asha Devi about the release of the juvenile rapist, among other issues. Currently, she is the president of the Nirbhaya Jyoti Trust, which is working towards the issue of women’s safety. Several times during the interview, her eyes filled with tears as she recounted the struggles of the last three years, following the tragic demise of her daughter which initiated a full-fledged movement for safeguarding the rights of women in the country.
Here are the edited excerpts from the interview that was conducted on 15th December 2015:
Abhimanyu Singh (AS): The Delhi High Court reserved its judgment yesterday in the case filed by BJP leader Subramaniam Swamy, who is against the release of the juvenile rapist. How do you view this?
Asha Devi (AD): In order to stop him from being released, we have met several important people. We wrote to the Prime Minister, Rajnath Singhji (Home Minister); we also approached the National Human Rights Commission. But we feel our efforts are going to waste and he is likely to be released anytime soon. (Although) a petition has been filed in the Court yesterday, I am worried that they will definitely let him out.
However, if the court judges the case on its merit, we do have a little hope that it will give a verdict in our and the society’s favour.
AS: Considering the law which stipulates only three years of internment as the maximum punishment for a juvenile convict, do you think your hopes are realistic?
AD: According to the law, he is liable to be released. But considering the crime that he has committed, and his initiation into jihad at the juvenile home, (I think) the Court should not ignore these issues. But this is up to the Court to decide and we will know if it does that.
AS: Are you worried that if he is released, he would commit more crimes?
AD: If released, he would pose a danger to the society. He might commit a similar crime later, maybe again as part of a group. They did the same earlier, after hatching a conspiracy as a group. That’s why we think that a person with such a mentality should not be out at large. For the sake of security of women and society, he should stay in jail.
AS: That can happen only if the Parliament changes the law. There is not much that the courts can do.
AD: They (the Members of Parliament) should. He went to the juvenile home three years ago but so many similar crimes have occurred. But neither the law (regarding juveniles) changed, nor was anything about the safety (of women) said or considered.
AS: Do you think the law is being misused?
AD: The juveniles know that no matter what crime they commit, they can’t be punished for more than what the law stipulates. If he is released, others might think that if he can get away, we can too. They will feel they have a right to commit such crimes. But neither our judiciary nor our government is considering the issue.
Every attempt is being made to defend the juvenile rapist. He is asking for a job, security; he is clearly trying to exploit his juvenile status. After committing such a heinous crime, he is asking for support. Does our government support criminals? Don’t victims have any rights? We should also get justice. Girls also have a right to live.
They are concerned about cleanliness. I never heard anyone say that women should be offered a life of dignity. If there are no laws (guaranteeing that), there should be.
I am a citizen of this country. My daughter was also a citizen of this country. She had a right to live. Hence, we want justice. I leave this to the government regarding whether we get justice or he gets support.
AS: You are not alone in this. Subramaniam Swamy has filed a petition. Young people have been protesting at Jantar Mantar for the last three years. What do you think about it?
AD: I get courage that people are with me, supporting me. I got neither justice nor support from any other quarter. I do hope that something will change in the days to come. Some day (I hope) women will be safe but when? We don’t know that.
Yesterday, a new petition was filed by Swamyji. This was because the juvenile rapist was sharing the cell with a convict in the Bombay bomb blast case (that took place in 1992). He (juvenile rapist) was being trained in the ways of jihad by him. So the (new) petition is about that, that his mentality hasn’t changed, he can cause further damage to the society. The matter is to be decided on 20 December. Let’s see what the court says.
AS: Are you convinced about the jihad angle?
AD: Absolutely. He has been into all this for the last three years so that he could go on doing what he pleases to anyone with impunity.
AS: You believe the governments are not serious about the issue?
AD: I don’t see them taking any concrete steps (on the issue of female safety). Anytime an incident occurs, statements are made. Two days later, the matter dies down and another incident recurs.
When it comes to this juvenile rapist, they say he is from a poor family. But I want to say that those who lose out also require something in return. We are still in pain. He is alive and his family members are waiting for him to return. What should I think? My only reason to live is to seek justice for my daughter. (Eyes well up)
I learnt from the news today that Delhi government plans to give him Rs. 10,000 so that he can start a tailoring shop. They are worried about him but what about the thousands of girls (raped and) killed (by juveniles)? What about us who have been suffering for the last three years? Did they ever ask us what we wanted? What are they doing for those whose daughters are no more?
I say why only Rs. 10,000? Why not lakhs? Give them money, help them set up businesses because they are men, they are the future of the country. Women are worth nothing. They are dying on a daily basis. They have no future, no rights in this country. If the government supports such people, what will criminals think of women? They will think of them like disposable plates on which one has food. Use and throw. I did not hope for this from the Delhi government. I am aggrieved by their statement.
AS: After what happened to your daughter, there were a lot of protests. The laws (on sexual harassment) were also changed. What do you think about that?
AD: Nothing has changed. Whatever little might have changed is only on paper. It is not being put to use. Otherwise, I would have received justice. Such barbarity was committed (in my daughter’s case), we struggled for justice for three years and what is the result? A convict in the case is being released on the anniversary of my daughter’s death (Jyoti Singh died on 29 December). Everyone is worried about him that people pose a danger to him. Is he not a danger to the people? To me? To women and girls?
I am feeling very pained and sad that I did not receive justice in the last three years. (Eyes well up again)
AS: Everyone says your daughter was very brave. Do you feel proud of her?
AD: It is not a matter of being proud. After what happened to my daughter, the way she was tortured and killed, people’s eyes opened. They realised that we needed better laws for women’s safety. That is why they protested back then and why they are doing it now. They were not doing it for my daughter. They were doing it because they felt pained, (especially) those who had daughters, they did not want it to happen again. No one knew me or my daughter. But everyone saw that crime.
Whatever I am doing now is for the society because I can’t get my daughter back. If the law changes, more provisions are added for the safety of women, it will help the coming generation of girls. My fight is for everybody.