New Delhi: Darkness still lurks at ‘the’ bus stand in south Delhi’s Munirka locality with women battling lewd remarks and stares, demonstrating that little has changed in the seven years since a young intern who came to be known as Nirbhaya boarded a bus for a ride that was to be her last. Also Read - Convicts of Nirbhaya Case to be Hanged in Jail No 3, Tihar Jail Seeks Hangman From Meerut
On Tuesday, a Delhi court announced that the four men convicted in her gangrape and murder will be hanged on January 22 at 7 am, putting the spotlight back on the bus stand where the shadows are deep and dark. Also Read - 'Will File Curative Petition in Supreme Court,' Says Convicts' Lawyer in Nirbhaya Case
Women, who are regular commuters, say the bus stop turns into an unauthorised parking area after 9 PM and they have to face unwelcome comments and leering men almost every day. Also Read - Death For Nirbhaya Convicts: ‘People Misbehaving With Women Must Learn Lesson,’ Say Leaders, Activists
A 24-year-old woman, who did not wish to be named, said the security measures promised by authorities after the gangrape and murder are yet to see the light of day.
“There was talk about installing CCTV cameras at the bus stop and GPS devices in buses, but this bus stop is still a haunted place,” she said.
“I travel across Delhi for work but I live in Munirka village. My parents are not as concerned when I go to other places as they are when I come here. Somebody has to pick me up as soon as I deboard here,” she added.
The physiotherapy intern, known the world over as ‘Nirbhaya’, the fearless one, was only a year younger when she boarded a bus from the exact spot on the night of December 16, 2012, with a friend.
The 23-year-old was brutalised and gangraped by six persons, including a minor, before being thrown out on the road, her injuries so severe that she died a fortnight later in a Singapore hospital. Her friend was also assaulted.
More than seven years later, Rani Kumari, 27, who works as a beautician in Green Park, said the bus stop turns into an unauthorised parking spot after 9 pm every day and it is a challenge to avoid “creepy” men who gather here.
“After I leave work, I take a bus till Munirka. When I get down at the bus stop, many autos are parked here. It is very difficult to avoid the stares of auto drivers,” she said.
“The worst part is that they refuse to drop you home, saying they are done for the day. However, they are never too tired to pass lewd comments or follow you when you walk back home,” she added. Meena, 35, shared similar concerns.
“The government says we can complain if an auto driver refuses us a ride at night. One day, I forcibly sat in the only auto that I found at the bus stop. I told the driver that he could not say no to dropping me or I would lodge a complaint.
“He said his auto didn’t have enough CNG. I knew he was lying, but I had no option but to get down and walk in the dark,” she said.
The Nirbhaya case triggered a change in India’s rape laws. But on the ground, not much may have changed.
Of the six men convicted, Ram Singh allegedly committed suicide in jail and the juvenile was released from a reformation home after serving a three-year term. The four men facing the death sentence are Mukesh (32), Pawan Gupta (25), Vinay Sharma (26) and Akshay Kumar Singh (31).