New Delhi: One month after the shocking gang-rape of a 23-year-old woman by six men in a moving bus in the national capital, the bigger question which haunts everyone is how safe ordinary citizen, especially women, are in Delhi and elsewhere.
The brutality with which the young medical student was raped and assaulted by six youths moved the entire nation, triggering national outrage over the rising cases of crimes against women and concerns over their safety.
The story of the faceless young paramedical student who was honoured with several names like ‘Nirbhaya’, ‘Amanat’, ‘Damini’ etc for the bravery with which she fought her assailants along with her male friend on the fateful night of December 16 made India a talking point across the world.
It was on the night of December 16 that the 23-year-old woman and her male friend got on to a bus in Delhi`s usually busy Munirka neighbourhood after watching a movie. After assaulting her for what seemed like hours, she was left battered and bleeding on the roadside with her friend, both stripped off their clothes.
On December 29, she died in a Singapore hospital where she was taken for specialised treatment.
The young physiotherapy intern died 13 days after battling with her injuries, but her shocking tale, her struggle for life, her desire to see the perpetrators of the heinous crime be brought to justice still remains alive in the minds of millions of ordinary Indians who took to streets demanding justice for her.
Even one month after the shameful incident, the focus still remains on the safety of women and their status.
Though the Centre and state governments took several corrective measures aimed at improving the safety of women and preventing the recurrence of such monstrous cases in future, women in the metropolitan cities still feel unsafe and fear venturing out in the dark.
It is beyond doubt that the horrific incident touched an emotional chord with ordinary Indians across the length and breadth of the country, triggering a movement that has become a turning point in the fight for women’s rights.
The horror of what happened to the young woman continues to occupy mind space and debated endlessly in colleges and coffee shops, homes and offices.
The horrific tale of the young woman moved Congress chief Sonia Gandhi and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who issued instructions for improving the safety of women and arresting the culprits.
A lot has happened since then, including the arrest of all six accused, their trial in the Delhi court, corrective measures taken by Delhi Police, launch of women’s help line, increased patrolling and greater coordination among law enforcement agencies, but a lot still needs to be done.
Even after one month, the trial in the case has still not been shifted to a fast-track court. Several cases of gang-rape and other crimes against women are being reported from every part of the country.
The safety of women in public spaces is the one issue that concerns every Indian family - from the richest, whose daughters and wives go clubbing, to the poorest, whose women go out to work.
It was also the one incident that put India on the front pages of the world`s newspapers, putting an unwelcome spotlight on the country`s patriarchal and feudal traditions, sitting uneasily with the India-on-the-move image.
The central government and those in the states, particularly Delhi, have indeed moved to stave off some of the criticism.
Two committees were set up by the Centre and the Delhi government to probe the case, and more policemen have been put on the roads. Women activists promised that the movement for change would not be allowed to fizzle out.
They appear determined to ask the government on the 16th of every month for a report card on the progress made on reform, on what they have done so far.
For Delhi Police, which is not particularly known for gender sensitivity, countering crimes against women has become a top priority. Since the December 16 gang-rape, all the 180 police stations here have been told to run a women’s help desk 24×7 with at least two women police personnel in attendance. All police personnel are to inform senior officers immediately about any major distress call related to women. The process for recruiting more women cops has also begun.
Police stations have been instructed to put at least two women officers at the desk at night. All the 11 police districts in New Delhi have been asked to be on high alert regarding women’s safety and the officers have been ordered to handle women-related distress calls on priority. Police attending the calls at 100 – Police Control Room (PCR) and at 1091 (a special desk to attend women-related calls) – have been instructed to take immediate action when they get a distress call from a woman.
Clearly, the anger still persists but it has now been replaced with hope that things will improve and our women will be safer than ever.