Leslee Udwin gives more details from her interview with one of the men who raped and murdered Jyoti Singh in Delhi in 2012.
Mukesh Singh, the driver of the bus, described to me every detail of what happened during and after the incident. While prosecutors say the men took turns to drive the bus, and all took part in the rape, Singh says he stayed at the wheel throughout.
Along with three of the other attackers, Singh is now appealing against his death sentence. In 16 hours of interviews, Singh showed no remorse and kept expressing bewilderment that such a fuss was being made about this rape, when everyone was at it.
“A decent girl won’t roam around at nine o’clock at night. A girl is far more responsible for rape than a boy,” he said.
Bewilderment? But she died. She died because they shoved a metal pipe up her and shredded her intestines. Is Mukesh Singh bewildered at the idea that he’s not allowed to murder people? Not even women? Does he think it’s just normal and conventional and fine to shove metal pipes up women and shred their intestines?
“Housework and housekeeping is for girls, not roaming in discos and bars at night doing wrong things, wearing wrong clothes. About 20% of girls are good.”
People “had a right to teach them a lesson” he suggested – and he said the woman should have put up with it.
A right to teach them a lesson – by shoving metal pipes up them and shredding their intestines with the result that they die? He thinks random “people” have the right to do that to women merely because the women are outside after 8 p.m.?
I had the long and shocking list of injuries the young woman had sustained, read out to him. I tried, really hard, to search for a glimmer of regret. There was none.
I suppose John Gray would remind us that’s within the normal range for human beings. If so I would disagree. Casual brutality, yes, rape, yes, but lethal injuries not in war or revolution but just as part of a bus ride…no. Like Udwin, I find it horrifying that he has no regret and thinks he’s the one who’s hard done by.
My encounter with Singh and four other rapists left me feeling like my soul had been dipped in tar, and there were no cleaning agents in the world that could remove the indelible stain.
One of the men I interviewed, Gaurav, had raped a five-year-old girl. I spent three hours filming his interview as he recounted in explicit detail how he had muffled her screams with his big hand.
He was sitting throughout the interview and had a half-smile playing on his lips throughout – his nervousness in the presence of a camera, perhaps. At one point I asked him to tell me how tall she was. He stood up, and with his eerie half-smile indicated a height around his knees.
When I asked him how he could cross the line from imagining what he wanted to do, to actually doing it – given her height, her eyes, her screams – he looked at me as though I was crazy for even asking the question and said: “She was beggar girl. Her life was of no value.”
No brain-bleach strong enough…
I spoke to two lawyers who had defended the murderers of the 23-year-old student at their trial, and what they said was extremely revealing.
“In our society, we never allow our girls to come out from the house after 6:30 or 7:30 or 8:30 in the evening with any unknown person,” said one of the lawyers, ML Sharma.
“You are talking about man and woman as friends. Sorry, that doesn’t have any place in our society. We have the best culture. In our culture, there is no place for a woman.”
Wow; that’s blunt. Also reminiscent of the title of Taslima’s blog – No Country for Women.
This is another repeat, but it’s worth repeating:
The other lawyer, AP Singh, had said in a previous televised interview: “If my daughter or sister engaged in pre-marital activities and disgraced herself and allowed herself to lose face and character by doing such things, I would most certainly take this sort of sister or daughter to my farmhouse, and in front of my entire family, I would put petrol on her and set her alight.”
He did not disown that comment when I put it to him. “This is my stand,” he said. “I still today stand on that reply.”
He tells the world he would murder his own daughter in front of their family, by setting her on fire, for unspecified “pre-marital activities.” He’s a lawyer and he’s telling the world he would murder his own daughter for an unimaginably trivial reason.
She ends on an up-note though.
Starting on the day after the rape, and for over a month, ordinary men and women came out on to the streets of India’s cities in unprecedented numbers to protest. They braved a freezing December and a ferocious government crackdown of water cannons, baton charges, and teargas shells. Their courage and determination to be heard was extraordinarily inspiring.
There was something momentous about their presence and perseverance – reminiscent to me of the crowds that had thronged Tahrir Square in Cairo – a gathering of civil society that demanded a conversation that was long overdue.
I find it hard to get inspired when the originating conditions are so horrendous.