New Delhi, May 10: “I would tell my daughter that the Supreme Court’s verdict on death penalty to her four culprits is the best tribute and gift to her on her birthday,” said a teary-eyed Asha Devi as she spoke about her daughter Nirbhaya on her birth anniversary. The Supreme Court last week upheld death penalty for the four culprits – Vinay Sharma (23), Akshay Thakur (31), Mukesh (29) and Pawan Gupta (22) – in the December 16, 2012, Delhi gangrape and murder case. Today, May 10, is Nirbhaya’s birth anniversary. As her mother Asha Devi speaks to about Nirbhaya with moist eyes, she holds a smile with hope that India will become a better place for daughters.

The long legal battle to get justice for Nirbhaya

Speaking on the Supreme Court verdict, Nirbhaya’s mother said that the case is not yet over for them. “This verdict is a ray of hope for us that our daughter will get justice. But till the time the culprits are hanged, there is nothing. It is just on papers as of now,” she said. Nirbhaya’s parents Asha Devi and BN Singh have been fighting for justice for their daughter for the past five years after she was brutally raped and murdered by six men, including a juvenile in a moving bus on December 16, 2012. “It is evident how slow the legal procedure is in the country. This case was a fast track case, yet it took so long. We still don’t know when the culprits will be hanged. But the Supreme Court’s verdict has given us hope that Nirbhaya will get justice. But when will she get justice, we still don’t know,” she said.

She also tells us that it is her daughter’s suffering that has given her the strength to keep fighting for justice for Nirbhaya. “I have seen my daughter suffer, cry of pain in the hospital. That suffering gives us the strength to keep fighting. It makes us feel how can we sit with that pain that our daughter suffered. What was my daughter’s fault? What was our fault? My daughter was in so much pain that she died. Now we die every single day,” said an emotional Asha Devi.

‘She told me that they beat her up brutally, she wanted them to be burnt alive’

As Asha Devi speaks about her daughter speaking to her in hospital, her voice breaks. “She couldn’t speak much as she was in pain. But she would tell me bahaut maara mujhe (they beat me up brutally). She said punish them by burning them alive. The police asked her what punishment she wanted for her culprits. She said that all the courts can do is to give them death penalty, but they must be burnt alive,” says Nirbhaya’s mother.

Speaking on her fight to get the juvenile involved in the case punished, Asha Devi said, “I’ve taken the legal route, I’ve held protests, I’ve done everything that I could do. We went to every court of law. We have lost hope that he will be punished. I still keep trying that he gets punished, but I hardly have hope that he will be punished. Till the time the law is amended, nothing can be done. If this is what God has decided for him, be it.”

‘My daughter would have turned 28 today’

“It’s her birthday on May 10. She would have turned 28. If she could hear me, I would tell her that there can’t be a bigger gift for you today that the top court has delivered justice to her. I will keep fighting for you till the time you get complete justice. But the Supreme Court’s verdict is the perfect tribute to my daughter,” said Nirbhaya’s mother.

‘Where were the human rights voices when my daughter was brutally raped and murdered?’

Asha Devi has been hearing pro-human rights voices since the day the Supreme Court upheld the death sentence for the four convicts. She questions as to where these voices were when her daughter was brutally rape and lay on the road dying. She questions as to why not one human rights voice has come forth for her daughter in the past 5 years that she has struggled for justice for Nirbhaya. “Did my daughter not have human rights? But why do these voices come up only when these brutal rapists and murderers are sentenced to death,” she asked. “If you must not give death sentence in the 21st century, does one have the right to brutally rape and kill someone in this 21st century,” asked an angry Asha Devi.

“You first make sure that if a girl steps out from her house and goes to school, she is safe and she doesn’t have to worry. Then you talk about human rights,” she added. “Rapists just need a woman to rape. They rape a small 2-month old girl, they rape an old woman. Where does human right go then? Why is it spoken of when that brutal culprit is hanged,” she questioned.

‘We have a long way to go to make India safe for girls’

Asha Devi also said that we need a separate system altogether for dealing with cases of crime against women. “I think the cases of crimes against women should be dealt with separately. All of these should be fast track. There must be a fixed timeline for the case. Only then will this bring justice for the victims. Victims’ families keep fighting, and they either give up or die and the case doesn’t finish. I won’t say there is no progress. But for women’s rights and safety, our society still has a long way to go,” she said.

Beti bachao, beti padhao is a great initiative, but till the time we don’t get rid of the dowry system in our society, we won’t be able to save the girl child. Till today, when a second daughter is born in a home, the family goes under pressure. If we really want to save our daughters, our law has to be stern with these criminals and the dowry system has to end,” added Nirbhaya’s mother.

‘To every girl – fight for your right, your honour’

Then there are those who blame the girl for her rape. “The irony is that the girl has already suffered. We make her suffer more by keeping her in house arrest. We stop her education. So crime happens against her not once, but repeatedly. We don’t let the girl come out of what she has gone through. We have to rise above this and leave our daughters, and catch those who commit these crimes. People raised voices after December 16, 2012, not for Nirbhaya, but against that crime. We need more such voices. I want to thank such people who continue to raise their voices for women,” she said.

She also appeals to people to not hide such crimes and get them reported to the police. She appeals to the people to not let their daughters suffer. “Every parent has to support their daughter and fight for justice for her,” she said.

To conclude, she has a message for India’s daughters: “You are no less than any man, your brother. Know your strength. Fight for your right. If you don’t support yourself, no one else will support you. Fight for your right, for your honour.”