Hours after she was allegedly raped by three men, who also killed her 8-month-old daughter, a young woman travelled by the Delhi Metro with her dead baby to a doctor, refusing to believe she was gone.
This horrific incident is the latest in a series of revelations to have emerged in a case first reported by the media on Tuesday.
The exact circumstances of the crime, which took place a few days ago, were initially unclear, since the woman refused to undergo the medical examination to confirm sexual violence. Her sole concern was her child, whose body was allegedly smashed on a median divider on a road by one of the men. After doctors ascertained that her baby had died, she told her husband about the rape.
The narrative that can be pieced together from various reports is chilling.
On the evening of 29 May, the woman had allegedly got into a row at her in-laws', in Gurgaon's Khandsa village, involving her neighbours, and left with her baby daughter for her parents' place in Tughlakabad, Delhi. She took an auto at first, but had to get off, fearing for her safety from the driver, who seemed to be drunk.
Next, she flagged down a 'shared auto', with two male passengers in it already. Some reports say the men started harassing her the moment she got in, others claim it began a little later, after the vehicle swerved at a U-turn and took a wrong detour. Near Manesar the three men, including the driver, dragged her to a secluded spot and raped her for four hours. They left her at 2 am, a few metres away from her dead baby.
Near Manesar the three men, including the driver, dragged her to a secluded spot and raped her for four hours. They left her at 2 am, a few metres away from her dead baby.
Initially, the woman told the police the men had thrown her wailing baby in frustration on a road divider to silence it. But later she elaborated that they had taken turns to hold the baby down as they assaulted her. It was only after they were done, they smashed her infant to death.
After she regained her senses, the woman collected her child's body, found herself another auto with the help of a security guard of a factory, and went back to her in-laws. Once she learned her baby was dead, she apparently set out for her parents' place in Delhi by the Metro, intent on finding another doctor, and refusing to accept the reality.
Since she didn't have a cell phone, it was only after she had reached her parents' that her father called her husband and told him everything that had transpired. Her husband asked her to get back immediately and met her at the MG Road station with the police.
Apart from the obvious gruesome circumstances, the story raises several hard questions.
Even after she went back home to her in-laws the next morning, it beggars belief that she was allowed to take the Metro by them with her dead child.
Given the acutely unsafe roads, especially for women, in Haryana after dark, we are forced to wonder why her in-laws would let her leave in such a state of distress.The fact that the woman didn't change her mind after her brush with the drunken auto driver and turn back home, probably showed the extent to which she was disturbed and keen to get away to her parents.
Even after she went back home to her in-laws the next morning, it beggars belief that she was allowed to take the Metro by them with her dead child. She must have been in a state of shock and refused to accept what had happened, others around her should have known better. It doesn't require much humanity to stop an already distressed person from setting off on her own.
Last, but hardly the least, the initial hesitation of the woman to speak of the gangrape to her family or file a police complaint perhaps shows the common people's mistrust of the system. Apart from social stigma, survivors of rape, especially if they are socially disenfranchised, fear intimidation and harassment from the police. A natural aversion for crossing the path of custodians of law and order from an early age, even when they are not in the wrong, results in a shockingly low number of registered cases of sexual violence.
The police have held at least 50 auto drivers for questioning and the case will hopefully proceed at a swift pace.
Admittedly, there are possibly loose ends and more questions to be answered in the episode, but none of those is likely to change the cold facts of the tragedy: the assault on the woman and the loss of a life.
The police have held at least 50 auto drivers for questioning and the case will hopefully proceed at a swift pace. Justice in the notorious Nirbhaya case of 2012, involving the gangrape and murder of a young woman in Delhi, came five years later her death. Invoking the rarest of rare cases, the Supreme Court upheld the death sentence awarded to the surviving accused—and most of the nation approved. People exulted in the belief that finally the criminals who had perpetrated unspeakable horrors on their victim were given what they deserved.
Clearly, if such an extreme punishment was meant to act as a deterrent, it hasn't had the desired effect. Stories of sexual violence on adults and children alike still keep coming up in the news as regularly as the weather report. Politicians make tall promises of women's safety, but end up curtailing their freedom—as in Uttar Pradesh, where the anti-Romeo squad, has been unleashing a havoc on innocent citizens.
Civil society must speak up in the case in Gurgaon, too, as it did while demanding justice for Nirbhaya. In an ideal world, every injustice should be protested against, be it by rallying on the streets or by taking to social media. Since that's not the reality, singular instances of cruelty must be seized upon and justice demanded in the most strident of terms.
The months-long protests after the Nirbhaya incident led to a slew of legal changes, including in the laws dealing with rape, thanks to the recommendations of the Justice Verma Committee. Yet, law alone is not enough to foster reform until it trickles down and starts altering mindsets, crushes age-old belief systems and vicious prejudices.
Each time a tragedy of devastating proportions takes place, we are reminded not only of the long road to justice that stretches ahead of us, but also of the continuing failure of our collective humanity.
Also on HuffPost