The story of a woman's tragic death following her gang rape in India was not getting much attention outside the region a few weeks ago, but when the world's largest democracy fights for women's rights, it's important to pay attention. PolicyMic has been covering the protests from the beginning. With government and political actors playing their part, protesters stood unwavering in their support for 23-year-old Jyoti Singh Pandey, revealing much about India and the gap between a government and its people.
As the trial progresses we'll be providing continual updates. For more descriptive analysis of the events and issues, please click on any of the links above to previous coverage by PolicyMic.
January 9: At the pre-trial hearing today, three of the five adult males accused of kidnapping, rape, and murder have plead not guilty to all charges. Lawyer Manohar Lal Sharma, representing the accused, has claimed the suspects were tortured by police, with confessions being beaten out of them. He told Reuters, "We are only hearing what the police are saying. This is manipulated evidence. It's all on the basis of hearsay and presumption." He's playing up on the widespread knowledge that Indian police will accept bribes, bow to public pressures in lieu of thorough investigations, and are corrupt in urban forces. Sharma's defense also includes blaming Awindra Pandey, saying he was responsible for his friend's tragic end.
Hear no evil, see no evil, do no evil, and...
January 7: With DNA evidence and eyewitness accounts, police were able to arrest five men and a minor with kidnapping, rape, and murder. Based on the outraged protesters and media frenzy in the past few weeks, the court in Delhi has banned the public from the proceedings.
January 4-6: The victim's friend and eyewitness, Awindra Pandey, gives his first television interview, detailing the vicious attack.
The government once again makes a case for harsh critics. Indian law prohibits the name of rape survivors from being released to the public; in the case of victims, the family's permission is needed. However, there is no such law prohibiting as such the details of these heinous crimes as Pandey relays to Zee TV. Unfortunately, the journalist is now in trouble with police. The Committee to Protect Journalists reports:
Home Minister Shinde vows to hire several more female police officers in order to boost public perception of safety for women.
December 29: A few days before, Jyoti was airlifted to a hospital in Singapore due to the severity of her injuries. She passed away there, while the news angered protesters who held candlelight vigils in her honor. Her death renewed cries against the government, many saying they transferred her outside the country on purpose to avoid potential violence.
December 26: Tensions continue to escalate as a police officer dies during the anti-rape protests.
December 24: It took an entire week of angry and violent protests for the subdued and ,some would say, infuriatingly quiet Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to address the crowds on his doorstep, being hit with tear gas. When he did, it was to tell them to calm down.
India's Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde, in charge of police, was one of the earliest government officials to comment on the anti-rape protests. After peaceful protesters were charged with batons, water cannons, and tear gas, Shinde compared the youth protesting to violent Maoists, thus justifying police violence against the crowd.
As Soutvik Biswas writes for BBC regarding one of Shinde's chiefs, "The city police commissioner told a news channel that even men were unsafe in Delhi as 'their pockets were picked'"
December 22-23: Protesters continue to gather near India Gate in Delhi, fittingly close to the houses of Parliament. Anger erupted over police and government incompetence. As a response the police charged the crowd with batons, water cannons and tear gas. The feeling around Delhi had many in the media comparing it to Tahrir Square in 2011.
Due to the lack of mainstream media coverage in the States, I was left wondering whether the protests were being blown out of proportion by the zeal of the Tweet, but Raghav Chopra, a Delhi-based news editor at the Hindustan Times, said to me, "Yes, people really are angry. This incident has struck a chord with the youth who have taken to the streets to vent their anger. This public display of their angst comes on the heels of the anti-corruption movement by Anna Hazare which has instilled a belief, especially in the youth, that it is time they participate in Indian democracy actively."
As writer and journalist Nilanjana Roy relayed from the protests, this incident was just the straw that broke the camel's back. There were "many calls for hanging/ castration/ torture of the rapists" — while I understand the emotion behind this, mob justice and lynch mobs are certainly not what you want in the long term. Roy heard echoes among the crowd that the media's exposing of the details of the attack were shocking but necessary, and that many women around urban areas of the country said, "It could have been me, out in that bus."
Week of December 22: As Shiv Aroor, Deputy Editor of Headlines Today and based in New Delhi, explains: "The protests weren't organized, they were almost entirely spontaneous. This is hardly the first violent crime against a woman in Delhi, or anywhere in India, but I think the brutality and audacity of the crime has astonished people. There appears to be a real hope that the reaction to this crime serves as a tipping point." It was never any secret that women's rights and gender equality were sorely lacking, despite the rapidly growing economy and internationalization of India, but now there was a generation in India demonstrating that they did not want to put up with it. It's that rage-inducing irony of a majority Hindu country that continually prays to goddesses of all forms celestial, then leers at, chastises, shames, beats, and rapes the human female form.
December 16: Jyoti Singh Pandey and her male friend Awindra Pandey were out in New Delhi in the late evening hours, heading home after watching a movie. The two were lured onto a private bus, seen throughout the capital city, and promised a ride home. Approximately two hours later the two were thrown out of the moving bus, naked, beaten, and bleeding. Jyoti had endured several men raping her as well. She was so badly injured, she was unconscious and had internal bleeding and broken bones.