Aruna Shanbaug: A telling commentary on our judicial system

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Aruna Shanbaug: A telling commentary on our judicial system


Articles / Society & Culture   /   Jun 04, 2015
Kulbir Manhas
Kulbir Manhas
Kulbir writes about politics, social issues and technology. He has worked in an NGO for several years.

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Aruna Shanbaug died on May 18 after leading a vegetative pointless life for 42 years. During the four decades, she flitted in and out of our national existence at times whenever we felt uncomfortable at her plight.

She represents the injustice of our system at its worst.  It is horrible even to think of her tragedy- she was attacked by a ward boy, Sohanlal Valmiki, who tied her up with a dog chain and yanked her back with it to immobilize and then sodomized her.
 
As a result of the brutal attack, she went into a coma that would end with her death 42 years later. There were no protests against the hospital administration about the safety of women in the King Edward Memorial Hospital, where she worked as a nurse.

It is a telling commentary in itself that such a chilling brutal attack on a woman did not lead to any protests in the state or the country against the hospital authorities and government of the day. Maybe because she was just a nurse coming from a humble background.

The man who brutalized her was charged with attempted murder and robbery because the prosecution and the hospital were afraid to talk about what had happened –‘sodomy inside the premises of a hospital’. Sohanlal was sentenced to 10 years of imprisonment but was let out after seven years.

First injustice was heaped on Shanbaug when the ward-boy who assaulted and choked her was not charged with the sexual assault.Thereafter, every day was an injustice on her as she made into a spectacle to portray to the world how lovingly she was being taken care of. The system was merely hiding its hideous hypocrisy and guilt.

Shanbaug died daily, but we were smug that she was being taken of so lovingly. We killed her and stretched out the injustice of her death across 42 years.  Each one of us is responsible for the sufferings of Shanbaug , whose dreams were shattered on 27 November, 1973.

Agreed, there was no talk on euthanasia back then in 1973. The biggest indignity we served her was forcing her to rot daily so we could feel better. Otherwise, what purpose did it serve to keep her alive for 42 years? We could not ensure her justice, which is a sad fact, but keeping her in the vegetative state for four decades did not make up for the travesty of justice.

If we had cared, there would have been a national discussion on withdrawing her off life-supporting systems. Her family could have taken the decision to wean her off. With her family abandoning her after the tragedy, it was the responsibility of the state to take the call. The state did take the call –to imprison her in a vegetative body for 42 years.

After Shanbaug’s death, her attacker, Sohanlal, was traced by a reporter of Sakaal Times living in a village near Ghaziabad. He was aghast that his past had caught with him again. He told the reporter that he never raped her but had assaulted her.

Now it might seem shocking to us that charges of sexual assault were not pressed against him. But, it is not the fault of Sohanlal. It is a commentary on the justice system in our country.

After her death, the police is considering legal opinion if a fresh charge of murder could be filed against him. 

In the end, she died of pneumonia as per her medical reports.




 

The views expressed here are those of the authors and doesn’t reflect the official policy of Janpratinidhi. The views expressed here are those of the authors and doesn’t reflect the official policy of Janpratinidhi.
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