New Delhi: As a young woman fights for her life in a Delhi hospital after being gang-raped on a Delhi bus, an incensed India is demanding justice and tougher punishment for rapists.
Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit speaks exclusively to NDTV's Barkha Dutt about a story that has shaken the whole country.Here's the full transcript of the interview:
NDTV: The gang rape of young woman in Delhi in a moving bus has become a trigger-point, anger for not just, not just the national capital but across India. It's become test case for how long we are going to wait before a most stringent law, for those assaulting women, and more fundamental questions are being asked as well. Is the political response sensitive enough? Why is rape treated as only a women's issue? Why should only women politicians stand up and march against rape and is this incident going to be enough to bring the systemic change? Joining us to talk about all these issues is Delhi's Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit.
It's a painful time I think to many of us to hear the horror of brutality, what happened to a 23-year-old woman, who is presently fighting for her life in hospital in Delhi. Not just beaten up and assaulted but raped. Metal rod used to violate her, left stranded on the roads of Delhi, raped in a moving bus. I mean it's tough to even describe its unspeakable horror. And our city today, the capital of India called the rape capital of India. You are the Chief Minister of Delhi and this is the city you preside over. Now describe the rape case of India while the young girl fights for her life.
Sheila Dikshit: Barkha ji, I mean the most painful thing that I have seen happening since I have been the Chief Minister. Or even as the ordinary citizen. The last place, time where a public rape like this took place, was in 2002, opposite the Maulana Azad Medical College. That was shocking enough because it also took place in daytime. But after that, things sort of subsided. But this has touched the pinnacle of cruelty, the pinnacle of insensitivity, both by police, and by society per se, you know, when you see thing like that happening. There are people in society; four or five of them who are so sick, that they do something like this. And the horrifying way this girl was treated as you just said. Now it is upsetting for everybody. Unfortunately I don't have the police under me but the first thing I did that very morning, when I got to know about this, we set up some fast track courts, though they had been sanctioned in October. I wrote to Mr Murgesan, the Chief Justice spoke to him and I must say he did it by the evening. He said I will set them up, you just have to pass the notification and we did it. So that's one way of looking at it. That trial like this is to happen very quickly, but the demand is really is, which you have also said, that there should be more stringent and much more of severe punishment then this today.
NDTV: Would you want to see death penalty for rapists?
Sheila Dikshit: You know for this, I would not like to see any kind of... but I will tell you two days ago, we called all the big NGO's, women working in this field, including lawyers, including Vice Chancellors of universities and of course Mr Neeraj was there.
NDTV: The Police Commissioner.
Sheila Dikshit: All of them like Indira Jaisingh was there. We have requested her, please give us a draft of the kind of bill that you made for the household, children's something it was. Can you do it quickly, take on who ever else you want to. We will have this draft bill made and see what comes, so that the draft bill acts as deterrent. If the punishment is enough to act as a deterrent, people feel afraid of it, then we will send it to the Central Government, because you know that the laws are made by the Ministry of Justice. We will do that.
NDTV: Personally what do you feel? Personally at an emotional level, when an incident like this happens you hear castrate them, hang the men, stone them publicly, it triggers a very atavistic response, and it's natural, it's an emotional response, but when we step back and look at it sanely, there are others who have expressed concern that in case of death penalty, women who've been assaulted will be killed.
Sheila Dikshit: If you ask me personally I go with you and say 'Yes', death punishment, flogging, what you like, to shame the person and prevent others from doing something like this. But when I spoke to the Minister of Justice and other people, they said look, many people think that hanging to death is there for murder, has murder stopped? Therefore it has to be something that's publicly ostracisable, and punishable, the punishment has to be severe because it's someone among the society who's doing this.
NDTV: Ma'am, isn't it strange that today when we are talking, we should be naming and shaming the men who did this, and there should be no shame for the woman who went through this, there should be no telling her story in shadows, but because there is so much stigma in a deeply discriminatory society against women who go through this, they are called 'victims'. I personally hate this word. I think they should be called survivors of fight. How do we get rid of that attitudinal change? The attitudinal problem is because women are sometimes blamed, they are blamed for being out late, they are blamed for being out there at a bar, for wearing certain clothes, this is where the discourse really becomes discriminatory.
Sheila Dikshit: It is discriminatory, I entirely agree, we have to fight that collectively. Please remember that, because it does not physically or socially impact the men, but you and I have to do it, people like me have to do it, and I think unless you make really stringent laws, and access to information, what it means if you assault a woman like this. And I must accept that I've been emotionally so upset with this, I called up a meeting immediately, also set up this cell where women can call up in distress, a 24-hour cell, like we have 24-hour power and water supply, this is far more serious. I've put people there so that they can get in touch with thanas, one of the things that I've found out was that they shy even from going into a thana, because they feel they might be maltreated.
NDTV: And look at the statistics, more than 600 cases reported in Delhi alone, do you like your city as being described as the rape capital?
Sheila Dikshit: Not at all.
NDTV: But do you accept it becoming that?
Sheila Dikshit: Well as you think it has and you can't hide it, it has come in the open, and I think we all need to do something about this. Me, as a government, I'm going to do whatever I can, whatever it takes to do, try and get laws changed, be the voice of the woman. I'm a woman myself. I have a daughter, a daughter-in-law, and I'm concerned about each one of you. You remember the time when Saumya's case had taken place...
NDTV: Saumya Vishwanathan...
Sheila Dikshit: ...that's a time when we took up this zidd that anybody who works till late at night, after 7 in the evening in winter and after 8 in summer has to be dropped home, it is the duty of the employer, it did happen. But then we found out that they dropped them somewhere near the house, we said no drop them at the house.
NDTV: But Ma'am, when will we have a city where I can go by myself after 9'o clock in the night, when will this be a city where I do not need an escort? When will this space be there safe enough for me, not to change my life, keep the men at home after 9, why do you need to keep me escorted? Why me, me not being Barkha, but any woman?
Sheila Dikshit: It is a situation we should all strive towards, that if a woman goes out at 9'o clock or 4'o clock, or 5'o clock or 12'o clock it does not matter, whatever she's carrying with her, wearing, doing whatever it is, she's not to be touched. She's something like sacrosanct, that's the word I'd like to use. But at the moment it doesn't and Barkhaji I would not like to give you any false promises. I would not say that yes, something will happen by tomorrow or day after, but it's a big bell which has rung, I think it needs to waken us all up. 600 rapes, you are saying...
NDTV: Reported, we don't know the ones that are not reported.
Sheila Dikshit: ... you don't know the ones not reported, we don't know the ones reported, and all of that. But you know something, it's not going to happen overnight. I intend carrying on a campaign 'Awaaz Uthao'. I'm working on it, I won't be able to tell you what I'm doing, it concerns all of us and I'm sure it concerns all the mothers, husbands who've got wives working or anybody, not just working, going out anywhere.
NDTV: You were criticised very acutely when you said that Saumya was perhaps being adventurous by driving home alone at night and you were accused, in a sense, of justifying, rationalising the attack that took place on her. Why is it, Sheila Dikshit, that the discourse always ends up being women should have been more careful? This is my city. This is my country. As a woman why can't I be adventurous if I want to, why can't I be out late if I want to? Why is it attacked?
Sheila Dikshit: Saumya's parents came to see me. I had gone to se her parents. My point in that was, probably I did not use the correct words, that in a situation where we are living in a society, which is not sensitive to the dignity of women, the sanctity of women, we should be careful. We have to be careful now we've reached a point where we've got a civilised society, which behaves very crudely towards its women. In fact it's very upsetting. I was at that point of time extremely disturbed that a young girl who's going home, so I was like 'arre baba kyon woh akeli gayi, akele nahi jati toh nahi hota aisa shayad. That was my anguish at that point of time and my anguish today also Barkah ji is that I had gone to see the parents. I've been talking to the father everyday, and I've been in touch with the doctors. I think this could not have happened to any society unless there are brutal people living like this. Not only her dignity and honour has been devastated, I mean physically she's been finished, there are no chances of becoming alright also, so it's not just rape, it's murder in a way.
NDTV: So what are we offering her, as a country, as a city? Physically she's been...
Sheila Dikshit: I'm going to see the Chief Justice again today; justice as fast as we can and a message should go across to the people, to society and to the country, that the governments do act and should act as much as they can. But society also, I must tell you that we also have to act, how? I mean you have to start it from schools and colleges, respect your colleague who's a girl. She's not a plaything. She's not a football that can be kicked around. So my point is that the matter is very serious. It requires a holistic change in mindset, stringent laws; accessibility to immediate help. Probably if this girl had a phone with her but she couldn't access anybody, so how do we do that? There are many issues involved in it, many changes that are required, and awareness and I do say that unless these people are not only punished, but also feel ashamed of what they are doing, we would take something half way...
NDTV: You met the parents of this girl, how are they holding up?
Sheila Dikshit: I think they are remarkable people, the father is a loader, the mother is a thin lady, naturally upset and this is the daughter, they have two sons. They kept on saying that this has been very unfortunate, probably they didn't want to talk too much about it, because there must be hesitation in them to talk. But they did tell me will you please look after the sons, one is doing engineering, the other is in 11th or 12th. I said you don't have to worry about them, but I could see the father bent, the mother crying and the doctors absolutely helpless, I told the doctors whatever it takes, if you think sending her in any part of the world is going to help her survive, I'd be happy to do that. But he told me very categorically, you know, her intestines are gone, he told me in front of the parents so that they are aware of it. So I said how's she living, they are putting all types of glucose, saline water or whatever it is, but she's got all her mind there, her heart is beating well, so there you are. But apart from that, these are medical things; the thing is the incident itself. It has shocked all of us out of our wits. Each one of us wants to do something.
NDTV: There have been clamour for heads to roll, saying the police should be punished, there have been protests outside your house. You are seeing young men and women being water cannoned because they are protesting outside your residence. I know the police are not under you, but do you feel a sense of personal responsibility?
Sheila Dikshit: I feel very bad, where should people go if they want to vent something, even if I'm not in-charge? I have nothing to do. I don't even post a constable. I have nothing at all to do with law and order. Where do they go? They can't go to the Home Minister, for them it's too high up. They can't go to the Police Commissioner. They went there two days ago, yesterday, gathered there. But it's not normally done. They don't go the Lt Governor whose in-charge of law and order, the head of the law and order in Delhi. So where do they go? They come to me and so I met them all yesterday. All of them wrote capital punishment, capital punishment, this is emotion; it's the angst against what has happened.
NDTV: And at what level should this gesture be made? You are saying the police ...
Sheila Dikshit: It's the police to decide the thana person, where the nearest thana was. I mean you go on saying that don't put curtains and don't put tinted glasses, but who know that the only rapes take place in buses and cars? They may take place in gardens. They may take place anywhere. I told you the last one in 2002 took place in monument. So what I do feel very strongly? Evolving my idea is that to make the women very safe and to gain confidence, that if I ask for help it will be available to me
NDTV: But if this would have been under you what actions would have you taken?
Sheila Dikshit: I would have obviously suspended the person at the least. The rules and laws are there. There is also a police protocol. I have already requested them to put it on the website like we have already put ours on a website. That itself will tell a lot of things if the harassment takes place with the women rapes and all what you are expected to do and you should do
NDTV: What people are really angry about is that it's the Delhi, power capital of India. It's a VIP city of the lal batti of an ambassador car. What people are really angry about is that there are not many police people to patrol the areas. There are not police officers in public transport because 30% of the police force of this city is diverted to the VIP city. You know we actually did the numbers and we found that there are 3 cops to protect every VIP and 1 cop for 761 citizens. Now this is a horrific statistic. It is very difficult to convince the people right now that I need, netas need the kind of taam jhaam. You know the police are for the people, it should be for the people's security, but it's really for the netas and VIP's
Sheila Dikshit: Barkha ji, I would love to add to it. It's not the numbers which count.
NDTV: No, but that is the situation what is here.
Sheila Dikshit: It's disturbing. The numbers seems to be very disturbing. It's the number, which will really upset the people, 764 police for 1 citizen. I would really, I they think that we need an atmosphere in this city that this is safe. Why is the other city safe? Why is Delhi not safe? One of the reasons that I have been told several times it has a very porous border, people from different parts come here, have committed crime and just rush from here.
NDTV: The last time you know, the BJP really criticised you, and blaming rape on migration, that you are not taking responsibility for the incident...
Sheila Dikshit: We have never discouraged migration, always maintain that this is the city for people of India, the capital of India, where any people can come in. There is no capital of any state where people cannot come in. People migrate here because it's a comfortable city, it is a city of opportunities, which is a very good side of it, but it does, we have to understand, that it is what we can say, is the natural build of this society in Delhi, which is not the same anywhere else. I think we should increase the police force, we should decrease what really is unnecessary, what you know is the security for VIP's.
NDTV: But you as a politician are ready to give up and reduce your security?
Sheila Dikshit: Yes at any time. In any case I don't travel with too much of that. If you do it I'll be the first one to say that please find one or two extra, which I am not using. I mean people ask me why is this? Why do you use this? I don't need them, we don't need them, but more important is all this ....
NDTV: But why do you think that 30% of the Delhi police force being used for the VIP duty?
Sheila Dikshit: That's the Delhi police perception if they find that anybody is in danger
NDTV: Ma'am, do you think that it is the danger or it has somewhat become a VIP culture?
Sheila Dikshit: May be yes to some extent or may be a status symbol. You know this is a status symbol these days. What I think is that you may have any number of lal battis, do anything what you want, you like to do with the police, but the sense of security with the police should be there. Why is that that this has to happen in Mahipalpur?
NDTV: In this part of Delhi the politician and VIPs have their homes, the average citizens and this part of the people have been secured because the important people live in Lutyen's Delhi.
Sheila Dikshit: Yes, I can understand everybody is angry with the people who are VIPs. What is VIP anyway? I hate to consider myself a VIP. I am an ordinary person like anyone who is here, and my life, my security has same importance as the person who does not have this kind of thing. But this feeling that this is an insecure city has been going on for a long time, but we will have to stop. If we make a city safe then nobody will bother whosoever is a VIP, a diplomat or not a diplomat. That issue that should not be the distinction of the security
NDTV: Are you saying that your hands are tied and you can't do much because the police is not under your control?
Sheila Dikshit: Yes, my hands are certainly tied.
NDTV: Why haven't you raised this with the Home Ministry, your party leadership?
Sheila Dikshit: We raised it for the past 11-12 years. We have said that keep the VIP security, keep the diplomat security, but the ordinary police, the ordinary law and order should be with the Delhi government, because Delhi government without power is still the face of Delhi.
NDTV: Do you agree with the people's anger, that if this would have happened to a politician's daughter heads would have been rolled by now? It would have been a much more decisive action?
Sheila Dikshit: I don't agree with these assumptions. But I would thus feel this way as you said that the Commissioner is having a meeting, the Commissioner is having a press conference. But I just rang him up just before you came, that you must do some action, and you know that day when we had a meeting one anger was against the policemen, the thana don't have the police. It's not safe to go to the thanas. The policemen should go in a crew training, have to be more sensitive. Response should have been spontaneous. Overall it is huge. I am not the Chief Minister of Delhi, I am the ordinary person of Delhi.
NDTV: You spoke in the opening remarks about the insensitivity of the police. This is the bus that drove past 5 police pickets and in 40 minutes they were able to drive in the capital without any stoppage. What you think is the most insensitive response that came out from the police force? The High Court has also commented on it as well
Sheila Dikshit: They can get the PCR surrounding the very area. Now they have said that they are increasing the PCR but I have heard the increase in PCR for the last so many years. Increase it, surround them all; catch them. I mean when they have been thrown out of the bus I think this is very inhuman, whether you have a PCR or not, you have anybody or you don't have anybody. This is unforgivable and unforgettable and I would say because it is unforgettable let us learn our lessons. Let us move forward do things, that is ought to be done for a civilised city. What coordination is required? What rules are required? Laws are required. Training is required.
NDTV: What image stays in your head as you met this young girl who has gone through this horror?
Sheila Dikshit: Frankly Barkha ji I have spoken to the parents. The daughter, I was there for about half an hour or 40 minutes I did not have the courage to see her. I would have broken down, I thought it would have been unfair to break down in front of her parents, who are themselves so terribly traumatized, and she was the one person, the physiotherapist whom they are banking on you know, to give them a status and look after their old age as well. I wish I could have, I tell you what I went through, anybody would go through.
NDTV: So you did not have the heart to...
Sheila Dikshit: I didn't have the heart. I came out and they were looking after her very well there. The doctors were there, 24 hours the nurse is there, the best they can do is sit there and they asked doctors if I could see her. I said look, I don't have the courage because look she was mentally all there. Her heart was beating nicely. I mean the girl at that point of time is just like yourself and you can't define parents at that point of time. For anybody this would have been very tough and that is why I did not went to see her, because it doesn't look like a hopeful situation at all. But that apart we should see that this thing does not recur at all, that is what we feel.
NDTV: You know one of the things that the people feel, if you look at the great cities across the world, is that the public transport is an egalitarian thing in New York and London. You will have the Mayors taking a subway or something like this. You are sitting next to a person and you don't know whether this person is a banker, a millionaire or a hot dog seller. The problems in our city as we have perceived is that no politician ever takes a bus, or seems to take a bus, or take an auto or metro to go home, and till they will not do this, they will not feel how violated the women feel in public.
Sheila Dikshit: See if you talk about the politicians, the Governors and all, I also travelled by the Metro...
NDTV: Not regularly Ma'am.
Sheila Dikshit: No I don't do it regularly.
NDTV: This is not your mode of transport?
Sheila Dikshit: This is not my mode of transport. Certainly not like this. This is not also the mode of transport of India because they did not have the kind of number of cars that we have in Delhi. But there are still 20 lakh people who travel in the metro currently everyday, that it is under-utilised because there are all kinds of people, of all economic status. People living in this city, all have got it and this is the first time it has happened in a bus, not also a private bus, but a contract carrier. I don't know what it is.
NDTV: But do you want to see police, people on public transport, the marshals on it and do we have the numbers, is it practical?
Sheila Dikshit: It is if you have the numbers. Probably the marshals should be there, this is the decision of the Home Ministry and the people who look after it and we have also lost lot some leaders also
NDTV: Nobody is saying that anybody with a genuine reason shouldn't have that security.
Sheila Dikshit: I don't want to get into it but this is something, which has to be evaluated by the people who are concerned to do it. You really need to look for these people in buses, particularly buses. I am not talking about the metros. We did not have any complaints from the metros and there are no guards at the metro, and this thing, you just buy a ticket at the station and just get into that. But that culture has developed. This is not like that buses somehow do not have this culture. When you perhaps must have gone to the college there is always a little bit of teasing going on, it is always irritating.
NDTV: But don't you think it's a sign of brutalised society that almost everywhere, every one of us who has grown up, being pawed on board a bus, no matter which city we live in, and we are now so brutalised that we think that, we don't think it's okay, but it's become part of our formative years. Those are the formative years of a young girl in India, that there isn't a girl I know who has not been pawed on board a DTC bus in Delhi. I do not know such a girl.
Sheila Dikshit: Yes, neither do I. At some point of the time or the other somebody has, but these are comparatively, you can stop this, you know, the natural instinct, to touch a girl, all this. But what you and I are really discussing today, I feel deeply, deeply, deeply concerned about it, is that they have the temerity to do this kind of a thing, rape and brutal rape. I haven't just 4 or 5 people you know brutally raping a girl. What should concern, once that stops you see, after all it is an open society, as you very correctly say. Woman is not something out of mass. She is the part of the society.
NDTV: One of the young girls holding a poster said don't tell me what to wear, tell your sons how to behave.
Sheila Dikshit: That's it. I agree with her.
NDTV: But yet every time it happens, we have an 'ifs' and 'buts' response, you know, our political system responds by saying aise nahi karna chahiye tha, aise karna chahiye tha, itne baje jaana chahiye tha, itne baje ghar ana chahiye tha.
Sheila Dikshit: Ye political nahi hai, ye dekhiye samaj ka bhi hai. Samaj bhi hamara hai. Khap kyun hain aaj kal. Humne pehle kabhi suna hi nahi tha ki khap jaisi bhi koi cheez hoti hain. I never heard it there was such a thing as a khap, or you've lost your sight because of this thing. Yes, you know, marry with a caste or creed or whatever may be it, everybody has broken out of it and suddenly you find this khap. So it is also society, that's what I am saying. The answer lies not only in government providing greater security, it also lies in society's awareness and sensitivity.
NDTV: What has been your learning as I ask you in the end as a Chief Minister of the city, of the National Capital, in dealing with incidents like these? You often found yourself at the receiving end of intense criticism for saying something, for responding in a certain way. Do you feel like going out and sitting along with those women at India Gate? I'd like to see the Chief Minister of Delhi doing that. I'd like to see you sitting there with the people.
Sheila Dikshit: Well I hope I make your dream come true someday, but I find that for me, because if I sit there, people say you ought to be doing something about it instead of sitting there. So I do it. I tried indeed. I respond as quickly as I can. I am very sensitive to issues, social issues. I get criticised. Politicians criticise me, Opposition people criticise me. But Barkhaji I try and do what my conscience allows me, tells me to do.
NDTV: What is your conscience telling you to do right now?
Sheila Dikshit: Right now my conscience tells me that things like this should not be happening and we should do whatever it takes to stop this from happening. Whether it is changing the law, whether it's access to security by the ordinary people, and the ultimate thing should be that everybody in this city, young girls, old women, elderly people, boys, everybody should feel that we live in a city which is civilised and which respects each other's privacy and their dignity.
NDTV: I hope out of this great tragedy comes a moment of change at least?
Sheila Dikshit: Well I think it will. We have to sustain this feeling of anger. I wouldn't say feeling of anger, but we need to do something together on it.