On Friday, March 15, 2013, six men attacked a Swiss woman aged about 40 and her husband. The Swiss couple was on a three-month holiday in India. They had visited the temple town of Orchha in Tikamgarh district of Madhya Prades. On their way to Agra to visit the Taj Mahal, the couple had stopped to camp for the night in the forest near a village in Datia district, Madhya Pradesh, India.
A local police official told the media the gang beat up the husband, tied him to a tree before raping the woman. The gang after assaulting the husband tied him to a tree before raping the woman. The couple was not sure of the exact number of assailants since it was dark. The gang robbed them of their cellphone, laptop, and 10,000 rupees ($185).
On Monday, March 18, 2013, the police produced in court six farmers from nearby villages. Dilip Arya, the deputy inspector general of police of the area, told reporters that the accused had confessed to the charge of gang-raping the Swiss woman tourist. They also face other charges such as robbing the Swiss couple. Police said they recovered the laptop and the cellphone from one of the suspects.
Reacting to the unfortunate incident, the Swiss embassy in India said the health and treatment of the victim was a priority for them at the moment. Distraught over the rape, the Swiss foreign ministry in Bern released a statement on Saturday expressing deep shock at the ‘tragic incident’. They sought a “swift” investigation into the incident so that the victim gets justice.
Last month, the Swiss government issued a travel notice for India that included a warning about “increasing incidences of rape and other sexual offenses in India.” The latest incident could prompt other countries to issue similar warnings as regards to travel within India.
This attack comes just three months after the fatal gang-rape of 23-year-old physiotherapy intern Jyoti Singh on a bus in New Delhi in December 2012, which spurred outrage over how the Indian society treats its women, and the way the Indian judicial system meets out punishment for rapists.
On Monday, March 11, 2013, Ram Singh the first of the six accused in the December 16, 2012 Delhi gang rape was found dead in his cell in the high-security Tihar Jail situated about seven km from Chanakya Puri, to the west of New Delhi. It appeared that Ram Singh had hanged himself at about 05:00 local time, with an improvised rope made from a blanket.
December 16, 2012, was a fateful day for Jyoti Singh Pandey, a 23-year-old physiotherapy intern and her 28-year-old friend Awindra Pratap Pandey. Around 9:30 pm, on that day, they were on their way home after seeing the movie “The Life of Pi” in Saket, South Delhi. At Munirka, in South Delhi, India, they saw a parked chartered bus inside which were six men, including the bus driver Mukesh Singh. One of them, a teenager, called them and said the bus was going towards their destination – Dwarka in southwest Delhi. So, they boarded the bus.
After the bus moved, the men on the bus including the driver taunted the couple, asking what they were doing alone at such a late hour. Jyoti and Awindra were perturbed when the bus deviated from its normal route. The young man objected. They beat him with an iron rod until he fell unconscious on the floor of the bus. After gagging him, the men dragged the young woman to the rear of the bus. She attempted to fight off her assailants. She bit three of the attackers that left bite marks on them. Then, they raped her while the bus driver continued to drive. Later, Mukesh Singh, the driver of the bus also raped Jyoti.
Two hours later, the gang threw both their victims from the moving bus. The bus driver then tried to drive the bus over the woman, but her male companion saved her by pulling her away in time from the path of the tires.
Around 11 pm, a passerby found the partially clothed victims on the road and phoned the Delhi Police, who took the couple to Safdarjung Hospital, where Jyoti was given emergency treatment and placed on mechanical ventilation.
Jyoti had injury marks all over her body: on her abdomen, intestines, and genitals. Only 5% of her intestines remained inside her abdomen. Later, after examining her the doctors said the ruffians had used a blunt object for penetrating her genitals. The police suspect that it must have been the rusted iron rod which they initially used to beat Awindra. A doctor at the hospital later said:
“The rod was inserted into herand it was pulled out with so much force that the act brought out her intestines as well. That is probably the only thing that explains such severe damage to her intestines.”
Timeline of events after the rape
Here is a timeline of some of the events that I gathered from the media:
December 18, 2012
Public anger spilled over on the roads as youngsters, politicians, social organizations began their protests condemning the brutal incident.
The police impounded the bus. Within hours of the breakthrough, they arrested four men: the bus driver Mukesh Singh, his brother Ram Singh, gym instructor Vinay Sharma, and fruit seller Pawan Gupta. The police said that Vinay and Pawan confessed to being part of the gang that raped and brutalized and beat up the young woman and her male friend, and their statements would be used to convict the other accused as well.
The police revealed that on the night of the attack, the suspects had gathered at Ram Singh’s house for dinner and drinks before taking the bus for a joyride, fooling travelers who mistook the vehicle for genuine public transport.
Earlier in the day the police arrested the fifth accused. They did not reveal his name because he claimed he was a juvenile. “His age is being verified before giving details. If [he is a] minor, we have to hold back his particulars as per law,” said Delhi police chief Neeraj Kumar.
December 21, 2012
Jyoti gave her statement to a Sub-Divisional Magistrate (SDM), which corroborated the statement given by her friend Awindra Pandey.
Delhi Police arrested the sixth accused, Akshay Thakur fromTandwa area in Bihar’s Aurangabad district.
December 22, 2012
Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde announced the government would take immediate steps to amend the criminal law for enhanced punishment in the rarest of rare cases of sexual assault.
Protests demanding justice for the victim and women’s security reached Raisina Hill and Rashtrapati Bhavan. Students clashed with police near Parliament. They were water cannoned and baton charged. Several people were injured. The Delhi Police closed four Delhi Metro stations: Patel Chowk, Central Secretariat, Udyog Bhawan and Race Course stations – as a precautionary measure.
December 23, 2012
A three-member commission with Mr. Justice Verma as the Chairperson was set up to suggest changes required in the existing laws to offer better security to Women in India. The other two members are Mr. Gopal Subramanian and Mrs. Leela Seth. Subsequently, Justice Verma said he received 80,000 suggestions from India and abroad after he set January 5, 2013, as a deadline for comments from jurists, women’s groups and other forums to revamp the existing legislation to deal with sex offenders.
December 25, 2012
The Metropolitan magistrate recorded Jyoti Singh’s statement under section 164 of CrPC. Even though unable to speak she preferred to write herself the answer to questions. Investigators said that her answers were consistent on both occasions and matched with the statement provided by her male companion. She correctly scribbled the names of four of her assailants that she remembered hearing during the assault: Ram Singh, Mukesh, Vinay, and Akshay.
December 27, 2012
Under a secret operation, the victim was transferred from Safdarjung hospital to the Palam Air Force station, before being flown to Mount Elizabeth Hospital in Singapore for further treatment.
December 29, 2012
Jyoti lost the battle of life and died of severe organ failure in the hospital in Singapore.
December 30, 2012
Jyoti’s body was flown back to India from Singapore for cremation.
From then on the violent protests turned into peaceful candlelight marches to mourn her death.
January 2, 2013
Lawyers of the Saket District Bar Council refused to defend the accused.
January 3, 2013
18 days after the horrific gang rape, police filed a 33-page charge sheet against five accused: Ram Singh (33), his brother Mukesh (26), fruit seller Pawan Gupta (19), gym instructor Vinay Sharma (20), and bus cleaner Akshay Thakur (29). All five adult suspects pleaded not guilty to the charges.
The accused were formally charged in the Saket fast-track court. They face 13 charges that include murder, gang rape, attempt to murder, kidnapping, unnatural offenses, dacoity, hurting in committing robbery, destruction of evidence, criminal conspiracy and common intention under the Indian Penal Code. If found guilty they could face the death penalty.
The sixth accused is a juvenile and the Juvenile Justice Board has taken up the proceedings against him.
It is alleged that out of all the six persons who took part in the rape, Mukesh Singh, the bus driver and also the main accused in the case, was the most brutal.
The “juvenile” living on the streets since he was 11, was the most barbaric for he had abused the young woman twice sexually and ripped out her intestines with his bare hands. According to the Hindustan Times, he is the one who suggested throwing the injured woman and her companion from the moving bus. However, because of his age, he will be tried in a juvenile court and the maximum sentence he can receive under existing law is three years.
January 5, 2013
The Mirror News reported that Badri Singh Pandey, the father of the 23-year-old victim of the horrific gang rape had chosen to release her name to the public. Hitherto, the media referred to her using various nicknames since her brutal attack.
“I want the world to know my daughter’s name is Jyoti Singh,” he told Sunday People, one of Britain’s oldest Sunday newspapers, founded in 1881. By revealing his daughter’s name he hoped it will give courage to other women who have survived such attacks.
March 8, 2013
At a function held by the US State Department to honour women across the globe, Jyoti Singh was posthumously presented with the International Women of Courage Award by the United States. Nirupama Rao, the Indian Ambassador to the US, accepted the award, on behalf of the victim’s family. US Secretary of State, John Kerry, said:
“Her bravery inspired millions of women and men to come together with a simple message: No more. No more looking the other way when gender-based violence happens. No more stigma against victims or survivors.”
Each year the world celebrates International Women’s Day (IWD) on March 8th to honour women across the globe. Jyoti Singh was posthumously presented with the International Women of Courage Award by the United States. Nirupama Rao, the Indian Ambassador to the US, accepted the award, on behalf of the victim’s family. US Secretary of State, John Kerry, said: “Her bravery inspired millions of women and men to come together with a simple message: No more. No more looking the other way when gender-based violence happens. No more stigma against victims or survivors.”
March 11, 2013
Ram Singh, the first of the accused in the December 16 Delhi gang-rape was found dead in his cell in high-security Tihar Jail. Sunil Gupta, spokesman for the Tihar jail told the BBC that Ram Singh appeared to have hanged himself at about 05:00 local time, with an improvised rope made from a blanket. He said Ram Singh had not been on suicide watch and had been able to make a noose and attach it to a metal grille while his three cellmates were asleep. His body would be taken for a post-mortem examination later on that day, Sunil Gupta added.cellmates were asleep. His body would be taken for a post-mortem examination later on that day, Sunil Gupta added.cellmates were asleep. His body would be taken for a post-mortem examination later on that day, Sunil Gupta added.
Ram Singh, who had migrated from Rajasthan, was the first of the accused to be arrested. He was the driver of the private bus that was normally used to ferry schoolchildren. He was a drunkard with a volatile personality and was known among his close friends as a “mental case” who reportedly started picking up fights at the slightest provocation after the death of his wife two years ago. An accident case was also registered against him. According to his close friends Ram Singh was not remorseful about what he did to the 23-year-old female physiotherapist and her male friend on the fateful night of December 16.
Inspector Anil Sharma, who headed the team investigating the rape case, found Ram Singh a cold and remorseless man. During the investigation, Ram Singh told the Delhi Police that he took pleasure in assaulting women. He also said that he went berserk after the young woman bit him when he assaulted her. The alcohol he had consumed earlier and the defiance by the victims made him angry. He picked up a rod and hit the two badly, and his accomplices also followed suit. He had washed the bus to destroy evidence and had told his gang not to worry and had asked them to lay low for some time.
Mange Lal, Ram Singh’s father said that he had examined his son’s body and found “multiple injuries” including marks on his chest, face, an injured eye and had a badly injured hand and so could not have hanged himself. He also said other inmates had raped his son in prison, and he was constantly threatened by other prisoners and guards. “My son has not committed suicide. He was murdered by the three inmates in his cell,” he shouted at the hospital before being ushered away by policemen.
Ram Singh’s lawyer V K Anand repeated hits allegation. “There has to be some foul play here,” he said. “There were no circumstances which could have led to Ram Singh committing suicide. There was no mental stress. He was very happy. … The trial was going on very well.”
Amid allegations from his family that he Ram Singh was killed, the government ordered an investigation. The postmortem is crucial in determining whether it was a suicide as alleged by jail officials. “Can’t conclude yet that Ram Singh’s death was suicide,” said Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde. He agreed that the death of the bus driver who led the gang that fatally attacked and raped Jyoti Singh is a “grave lapse” and “not a minor incident.”
“All the investigations conducted by us show it is death due to hanging,” said the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, adding that three doctors at the state-run AIIMS hospital had conducted the autopsy.
Two accused, Pawan and Akshay are held in Jail No. 4 while Vinay and Mukesh are in Jail No 7 of Tihar Jail.
Media reports quoting Vimla Mehra, the chief of Tihar prison say there were 18 deaths in the jail last year, of which two were cases of suicide.