Imagine being young and ambitious. At 22, after having graduated from college, after having received a prestigious internship at a national magazine as a photojournalist, you have everything going for you. You decide to continue working on an important assignment in Mumbai, one of the most cosmopolitan cities in India, when the worst kind of tragedy strikes: you and your male colleague are abducted, taken to an abandoned mill house, the five perpetrators tie and beat him up, and they brutally gang rape you.
This is exactly what has happened to a young woman in Mumbai just one day ago. You would think that after the type of negative publicity India has been receiving since the Delhi rape case and the rape cases that have occurred since, that things would have changed. However, the systemic injustice has continued. As someone who was born in Mumbai, whose parents were born and raised in Mumbai, who was in Mumbai when the Delhi rape had occurred, it comes as a terrifying shock, complete with outrage and grief. However, this victim refuses to sit down and take it. She wants to fight.
Police said that the victim and her male colleague were on assignment to take pictures in Lower Parel, a once thriving industrial area of Mumbai that has given way to luxury malls and upscale stores. The five perpetrators had confronted her and her colleague at around 7 p.m., saying that they could help them get pictures from inside a dilapidated building. However, once they reached the abandoned building, they began accusing the male colleague of being involved in local crime. After tying him up with a belt and severely beating him up, they took turns raping the photojournalist, according to Mumbai police commissioner Satyapal Singh. A suspect has been arrested, and he in turn has given the names and descriptions of the other four perpetrators. According to police, they are all local drug dealers.
The victim's mother was at first not aware of what had happened to her daughter. The victim called her mother from the hospital, stating that she had gotten into a minor accident, so as not to worry her. The victim is now stable in the hospital, but has told her mother that she will not rest until the perpetrators receive life punishment for "destroying her life."
In response to what has happened, several journalist organizations and the general public gathered in South Mumbai for a silent protest. Many wore black, carrying signs such as "Stop rape" and "City of Shame." The government has responded by discussing the attack in India's national parliament, with the junior Home Minister (akin to an undersecretary of Homeland Security) asking the state of Maharashtra for a detailed report of the attack, seeing that Mumbai is Maharashtra's capital. The national government has also passed legislation increasing the prison sentence for rapists as well as making voyeurism, stalking, acid attacks, and trafficking punishable under criminal law.
Every time an incident like this occurs, I hurt. I hurt not just as an Indian, but as an American and as a woman. But I always think of Jyoti Singh Pandey and the tragedy that befell her. Her first name, Jyoti, means "light" in Sanskrit, one of India's oldest and now obsolete languages. Hopefully, it is light that will continue to shine in the face of darkness. It is this light that will give us the strength to continue fighting.