I am a witness to Asha Devi's transformation. From a mother who wept sitting outside a ward at Safdarjung Hospital to a campaigner now for women's rights.
Five years ago, she was a helpless mother; today, she is determined to keep fighting till she gets the death sentence for the four men accused of gang-raping and killing her 23-year-old daughter.
I have covered many cases like Nirbhaya's in my 20 years as a reporter. Witnessing Asha Devi's determination brings back memories of so many traumatised mothers whose daughters I reported on. All fought for justice - some openly and vocally, others more covertly.
Rape is a word which can send shivers down any woman. But these stories are of those mothers whose daughters were violated. Each reacted differently to the situation.
The most horrific tale I remember is that of a Maulana Azad Medical College student who was gang-raped outside her college in broad daylight in 2002.
The victim was gang raped at knife-point on the terrace of a monument called "Khooni Darwaza". Two of the accused charged for the crime were juveniles.
I remember the day I met the mother of this victim. She was afraid for her daughter, of the stigma which is attached to rape. Actually no one in the colony knew who the victim was and the worried mother did not want the identity of her daughter to be known.
She made me promise that I would not reveal anything which would help identity her daughter. She even came to leave me till the end of the road as one would for a friend. She wanted justice for her daughter but did not want media attention. As she explained while walking me out of their house, her daughter would have to continue with her studies and if her identity were revealed, she would face many issues. Her helplessness, her predicament was visible in her tears.
The mother got a case registered against her own husband and said that she would fight for the dignity of her daughter. I remember she told me "Anyone who harms my child, I will go after them. A mother's love knows no law, no pity."
A mother I met had held her silence for eight years. Her husband used to rape their daughter. She was afraid that if she stopped him, he would go outside to some other women and her role and her family would be threatened.
Then there was a case in north-east Delhi. The victim was raped by her father when she was very young, but when she became 16, she decided to speak about her traumatised childhood. Her mother stood by her when she decided to lodge a case. "I know I was selfish, but now I can't bear it, that's why I decided to speak up," the mother said.
These stories keep coming back to me each time I see Asha Devi. I try to analyse why these mothers behaved so differently. I still have not got clear answers.
(Neeta Sharma is Editor, Strategic and Security Affairs at NDTV India)
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed within this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of NDTV and NDTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.
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