Lucknow: In Delhi, the first verdict was delivered today in the gang-rape of a medical student on a moving bus in December, a crime that shook India and forced the introduction of tough new laws to punish sexual offenders.
A juvenile court found one of the six accused of murder and gang-rape guilty. He was 17 when the woman and her boyfriend were beaten repeatedly with an iron rod before she was raped and violated so brutally that she died of her injuries two weeks later. The police had described him as "an equal participant" in the attack; the student's family, which was present when the judgement was delivered, said he should be hanged.
He is now 18 years old. He faces a maximum of three years in a reform home.
Seven years ago, he left his family and his home in a small village in Uttar Pradesh, just 150 km from Delhi.
There was not much to leave behind. He had dropped out of school at a very early age. His father was unemployed, his frail mother worked as a hired hand at a farm whenever possible to feed her five other children.
The son who moved to Delhi informed her that he had begun working at a hotel. Twice, he sent money to her. She last heard from him six years ago. She has not seen him since he left home.
"When he didn't contact us for more than two years, I thought he was dead. What else could have happened to him?" she said. She says that if he is guilty, he should be punished, but hopes that eventually, he will come back.
"If he behaves himself, then he will be allowed to stay in the village. But if he doesn't, then he will be driven away."
Everyone in the village had forgotten him. That changed in January when the Delhi Police arrived to comb the area with the news that he was one of the six men accused of the sexual assault that had India seething and demanding better safety for women.
"Who are we to banish someone? We are not the law. We have no such powers as villagers," says an elderly man. Most villagers have not been following the case closely. But today, the village is infused with news of the verdict.