Rest in peace, Nirbhaya
December 31, 2012 § 3 Comments
There’s been anger, sadness and shame in India over the ordeal of a young woman who was raped and critically injured by a gang of men on a bus in the capital, New Delhi. This shock reached an apogee on Saturday, December 29, when the unnamed 23 year old medical student died of her injuries in Singapore 12 days after being attacked.
The outpouring on social media has coalesced around a number of hashtags on Twitter including #delhigangrape, #delhirape and #braveheart. The Indian news media have christened her Amanat, Damini and Nirbhaya. Each of those names have been trending and now one of the most used hashtags is #RIPNirbhaya.
The Times of India says it started the trend to call the young medical student Nirbhaya which in Hindi means ‘fearless’. The other translation is ‘braveheart’ and she’s being called India’s braveheart which lends itself to being another of the trending hashtags used to express the grief and rage of many Indian Twitter users.
Facebook which is used by 60 million Indians has also been a venue of similar sentiments. This Times of India article shows just how many Indians have taken to the Internet to demonstrate their feelings and another TOI report says many Indians have turned their social media avatars to black in sympathy.
One tweet aggregator and tracking website, Twee.dot.co, says #RIPNirbhaya tweets ranked seventh in the world on December 29 when the word from Singapore’s Mount Elizabeth Hospital where she was being given specialist care was that she had passed away. The news burst onto Twitter and within hours, using Trendsmap, it is possible to see where the majority of #RIPNirbhaya tweets were originating.
— Trendsmap Bangalore (@TrendsBangalore) December 29, 2012
As seen in the screen grab below, taken early on Sunday morning New Zealand Time, the main sources are the major cities of Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore. Also featured are Hyderabad, Chennai and Calcutta.
Here is a sampling of some of the tweets.
— RuchikaVyas_HOC (@RuchsterV) December 29, 2012
The day women can walk freely on the streets of Delhi without getting abused, harmed or raped, India will become independent!#RIPNirbhaya
— Mahesh (@mahi_MSD_AB) December 29, 2012
— Pragdish Roy Kapoor (@PragdishRoy) December 29, 2012
— A.R.Karthick (@arkarthick) December 29, 2012
— S A A (@saahilvd) December 29, 2012
— Times of India (@timesofindia) December 29, 2012
Let this movement not die out! Do as much as u can.. Stand up & oppose eve-teasing! Respect girls! Respect us! Respect me! RIP#Nirbhaya
— sumbul mashhadi (@sumbulmashhadi) December 29, 2012
There are tweets from celebrities, prominent media figures and even foreign diplomats. The actors, Shah Rukh Khan, Sonam Kapoor and Amitabh Bachchan, the tennis player Sania Mirza, the cricketer Yuvraj Singh, and the CNN-IBN television anchor, Sagarika Ghose, are among those that tweeted their tributes to the young woman.
Death of #braveheart needs total overhaul in attitudes.Violence against women not "womens issues" they are political issues concerning all
— Sagarika Ghose (@sagarikaghose) December 29, 2012
Heartbreaking to hear about damini ! Rip braveheart of india !
— yuvraj singh (@YUVSTRONG12) December 29, 2012
Please don't let her tragic death be in vain. RIP nirbhaya
— Sonam Kapoor (@sonamakapoor) December 29, 2012
(1) We couldn't save u but wot a big voice u have, u brave little girl.That voice is telling us that rape is not an aberration,not a mistake
— Shah Rukh Khan (@iamsrk) December 29, 2012
T 974 – 'Amanat', 'Damini' just a name now .. her body has passed away, but her soul shall shall forever stir our hearts !!!
— Amitabh Bachchan (@SrBachchan) December 28, 2012
To our friends in #India: we share your outrage over an act of unimaginable cruelty against one of our sisters. RIP Nirbhaya
— Susan Rice (@AmbassadorRice) December 29, 2012
If the reaction on Twitter and other social media platforms is representative, this crime that has convulsed India is to become a rallying point for changing attitudes in what is ostensibly a chauvinistic and patriarchal country. As one woman protestor told the BBC World Service, the movement sparked by this terrible news story is not just a protest but a revolution.
Many fair-minded Indians will be hoping that this crime will be, in the words of one Indian commentator, an inflexion which marks a turning point towards achieving a society that eventually values baby girls as highly as boys. This in a country where ultrasound and foeticide are commonly practised to ensure the greater likelihood that a baby is a boy.
In India, sexual harassment is commonly known by the euphemism ‘eve teasing’ which makes it seem almost a playful activity. But the death of the young woman that has galvanised Indian society has shown the phrase to have a sinister edge and shone a spotlight on the issue of sex crimes – most of which go unreported in India for a range of reasons. These include the reluctance of victims to report rape because the authorities are unresponsive and if the case goes through the legal system, it may be years before it comes to trial. Even then, conviction rates are woefully low.
Perhaps #RIPNirbhaya will go some way to changing India’s sexual inequality despite the depressing reality that there are untold Nirbhayas who will remain far from the public gaze. But for a short time at least, the news media will be looking to tell their stories and the government will be keen to demonstrate its willingness to listen.
Postscript: Since I wrote this, Google India has created its own tribute.
— NDTV Gadgets (@NDTVGadgets) December 31, 2012