It was 84-minutes of horror. A young woman and her male friend horrifically attacked on a New Delhi bus. The woman, Jyoti Singh, gang raped, tortured, brutalised, her friend beaten unconscious. At the end of that 84-minute bus journey from hell, they were thrown naked, bleeding and gravely injured into the road...
It was 16 December 2012. Medical student Jyoti Singh, 23, and her male friend, Awindra Pandey went to watch a film, The Life of Pi, at the cinema in Sakat Mall in South Delhi.
After the film finished around 8pm the pair got a rickshaw home, but the driver refused to take them the whole way and dropped them in the middle of nowhere. Stranded, they decided they’d have to get a bus back to their homes.
At the bus stop a teenage boy beckoned them onto a white mini-bus and said they were going their way. Awindra saw what he assumed were several male passengers on the bus. In a hurry, they boarded the bus, paying 10 rupees [11p] each. Only the men weren’t passengers at all.
As the bus started moving the men locked the doors and switched off the lights. Then they launched a vicious, relentless attack.
First, three of the men came at them, one punching Awindra in the face. A scuffle broke, with both Awindra and Jyoti screaming and fighting back. Jyoti Singh tried to call for help on her mobile phone, but they were no match for the vicious thugs. The men snatched their phones, beating them senseless with iron bars.
The men dragged them both by their hair, tore at their clothes. Blood pouring from his face and with a shattered right leg, Awindra lay barely conscious on the floor as the men dragged Jyoti to the back of the bus and savagely gang raped her. During the attack Jyoti was tortured and sexually assaulted with a rusty iron pipe.
During an interview after the attack, Awindra said, ‘I could hear her cries. My eyes were open, I could hear everything but my body was paralysed. Every single moment was traumatic but the time when my friend was calling me for help and I couldn’t get to her is the worst. I was completely helpless and it tortures me every day.’
After the gang had finished, the pair were thrown naked, covered in blood from the moving bus onto the road. The driver even attempted to run them over before speeding off. A number of passers-by ignored the seriously injured couple before they were eventually helped and rushed to hospital.
The evil crime, the level of violence, sent shockwaves around the world, and left India, where victims are often blamed for rape and women’s rights ignored, reeling. Mass protests broke out, especially in New Delhi where men and women took to the streets. The reaction was unprecendented, with demand not only for justice for Jyoti, but protection for women everywhere against sexual violence.
The day after the attack, bus driver Ram Singh was arrested. Then, over the next few days, his brother Mukesh Singh, gym instructor Vinay Sharma, fruit seller Pawan Gupta, bus cleaner Akshay Thakur, and a 17-year-old boy, who cannot be named, were arrested.
Awindra survived the attack. But Jyoti, who’d been flown to a hospital in Singapore, died from internal injuries 13 days later, on 29 December 2012. She’d survived just long enough to learn her attackers had been caught. Her body was flown back to Delhi, where her distraught parents had her cremated on 30 December, under tight police security. Medical reports later revealed that Jyoti had suffered serious injuries to her abdomen, intestines and genitals. Some reports said her intestines were more or less ripped out during the attack.
In March 2013, ringleader Ram Singh, died in Tihar jail. The police said he hanged himself, yet defence lawyers and his family still allege he was murdered.
In September 2013, after a fast-tracked trial, Vinay Sharma, 20, Akshay Singh, 28, Mukesh Singh, 26, and Pawan Gupta, 19, were all convicted of the heinous crime and a judge sentenced them to death. The 17-year-old, who’d been five-months shy of his 18th birthday, was tried under juvenile laws and sentenced to three years in a reform home – the maximum a juvenile can get.
Later, BBC documentary, India’s Daughter, explored the events before and after the harrowing attack on Jyoti Singh. During the documentary, rapist Mukesh Singh gave an interview from his jail cell, blaming Jyoti for ‘fighting back’. He said, ‘A decent girl won’t roam around at 9 o’clock at night. A girl is far more responsible for rape than a boy.’
His views, and the similar views of lawyers defending the gang in court, were further evidence of the appalling attitudes shown by many Indian men towards women.
The documentary was banned in India.