Nivriti Butalia & Sadiq Shaban / 14 September 2013
Death for the rapists was the verdict delivered by Justice Yogesh Khanna in the Indian fast trial court on the afternoon of Friday in Saket, New Delhi.
In the UAE, as well in the rest of India, a clear majority of people welcomed the sentence meted out to Akshay Thakur, Vinay Sharma, Mukesh Singh and Pawan Gupta, who on December 16, 2012 raped a 23-year-old physiotherapy student inside a moving bus. The girl subsequently succumbed to her internal injuries caused by the brutal attack.
While delivering the sentence, Justice Khanna said, “In these times, when crime against women is on the rise, the courts cannot turn a blind eye toward such gruesome crimes.” He said the attack “shocked the collective conscience” of India.
The reactions of the public in Dubai and the rest of the UAE have been unanimous.
Muneeb Hussain, a 28-year-old PR executive in Dubai, said, “I think justice has finally been delivered. I am glad the government set up fast-track courts and expedited the process, but it’s been almost a year and so many incidents have happened since then. Decisions in such cases should ideally be fast and harsh.”
A voice from the hospitality sector, Saji Babu, 36, demanded the same punishment for “the younger guy”.
“You should not spare the younger guy. It’s not fair, it’s wrong. The girl’s family has said again and again that she told them the younger guy, the one who has gotten away with only three years in a juvenile home, is the one who did the worst, most heinous act, starting with kicking her. He deserves death, too.”
Sunesh P. K, 39, who works in the construction sector, said, “Rape deserves death. This came too late. It was a clear case, the rapists were guilty — it was already proved. The verdict in these cases needs to be delivered faster.”
Even ten-year-old Urja Mhatre, on a Friday afternoon outing with her parents and grandmother, had an opinion. Young Urja said, “They murdered her, but it was not her fault. The girl died for no fault of hers. They should be punished.”
Urja’s mother and father and grandmother had the unanimous view that only with capital punishment in these cases would the right message of fear and awareness be sent out and serve as a deterrent to these crimes.
Urja’s grandmother, an emotional Vijaya Ingle, visiting her family in Dubai, said she felt for the mother of the girl. “Death is the right verdict. Each and every rape case should get this penalty… but her daughter is never going to come back…”
India’s Union Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde hailed as exemplary the sentence awarded to the four convicts, saying the victim and her family had got justice.
In all the noise and hailing the sentence as a triumph of the legal system, there are those who are still wary of the death sentence, even as they acknowledge the barbaric magnitude of the crime.
For instance, Nazir Bulla, a 29-year-old civil engineer in Al Ain, believed, “While capital punishment does send a strong message, there is a huge question mark about what it can actually achieve. In any modern society, a life sentence verdict, without parole, is a better option.”
On the other extreme, and siding with the majority, Sujata Sreenivas, an artist who works on all mediums, says castration was the answer.
“Rape deserves a punishment that acts as a deterrent, it doesn’t have to be death. It can be a punishment that compromises the manhood of the guilty.”
On social media sites such as Twitter, the hashtag “all 4” was trending within minutes of the verdict being delivered.
“I am glad that justice has been served but I am very angry that the juvenile will walk away free in under three years. This policy needs to be reviewed or you will have juveniles raping and killing. Even at 16 one needs a distinction between petty crimes and crimes that are grave,” said Aprna Kesavan, a resident of Abu Dhabi.
“As a mother of a young girl I think this verdict was just,” said a Dubai resident who preferred to remain anonymous.
Bharatiya Janata Party leader Sushma Swaraj had supported the death penalty saying, “The convicts should be given death penalty; this will set an example for the future.”
Renowned social activist and retired Indian police officer Kiran Bedi said, ““All Convicted! This was never in doubt. What is vital is severity of punishment. Justice demands this to be treated a rarest of rare!”
In the film world, most celebrities too sided with the sentence. Bollywood actor Anupam Kher tweeted, “Death Sentence for Rapists. This Friday the 13th is a day of JUSTICE. Jai Ho.”