Friday, March 04, 2011


It's not like I have this sudden urge of dabbling in journalism or human rights activism. But since I always write about the things I feel strongly about, I have to compose such a post. For as much as the knowledge of this gruesome happening pains me, it pains me all the more to know how few people are aware of this issue.

On the horrifically tragic night of 27th November 1973, Aruna Shanbaug, a 25 year-old spirited woman hailing from Karnataka and working at the King Edward Memorial Hospital in Mumbai as a nurse, was sodomized and strangulated with a dog chain by a ward-boy named Sohanlal Bhartha Walmiki. She was discovered in an unconscious state 11 hours later by the hospital authorities. It turned out that the asphyxiation during the course of the assault cut off oxygen supply to her brain and in turn left her bereft of the power of speech. She also lost control over her muscles, became cortically blind and suffered a severe kind of emotional disability. The demonic sonovabitch, who authored this monstrosity just 'cause he was severely reprimanded by the righteous Aruna earlier, was charged with attempt to murder and robbery. The much more heinous crime of sodomy was conveniently kept under wraps in fear of Aruna facing social stigma. Under the instructions of the Dean of KEM, doctors did away with medical evidence confirming anal rape in view of her forthcoming marriage to Dr Sundeep Sardesai.
37 years have passed since that day. Aruna Shanbaug has been reduced to a mere lump of unresponsive human flesh from a full-fledged woman of character and strength, confined to a bed of the same hospital she once used to work for. Her fiance and her family have abandoned her in due course of time.
But the rapist motherfucker responsible for all this got away with a mild 7 year term in jail. His current location is undisclosed (the authorities probably respect his well-deserved right to privacy) but rumors suggest he was later employed as a ward-boy in a Delhi hospital.

Aruna's story was compiled into a book by a journalist friend Pinki Virani who later filed a plea for Euthanasia with the Supreme Court. The case continues to draw worldwide attention and be a topic of a raging controversy amidst all members of the society.
Aruna cannot really eat. Food in the form of a paste is shoved down her throat which she cannot swallow. She is almost blind, her skin is as fragile as a piece of tissue-paper and gets bruised easily. So much so that the nurses in charge of her care, have to sew special clothes for her. Her teeth are decaying owing to the lack of use. She hasn't walked in decades and all her limbs are as good as gone. She screams every time she hears a man's voice.

We may not have the right to destroy life, a creation of nature. But do we have the right of inflicting a form of mortal agony a thousand times worse than death on a human being who never did anything to deserve it?
Why must her perpetrator get away with such a light sentence and be allowed to live a normal, healthy life while she continues to suffer the crudest form of torment disguised as 'life' for no apparent reason?
Why is a rape victim snubbed by the society instead of being treated with care and concern? Why must the terrible tale of her trauma be shoved under the carpet just to keep her from being 'stigmatized'? Why must others point fingers at her for being a victim of a flagitious crime somebody else committed?
Maybe, just maybe, the world would be a much better place if only we could get rid of the numerous such 'why-s'.
And maybe the Supreme Court will respond to the plea for 'non-action' in Aruna's case and finally save her from the indignity she has endured all her life.



Anish said...

I have heard of this case before-and two things come to mind from this-firstly how can that animal get away with this?Even a death sentence is too light a punishment for him.Are we still living in the middle ages?

secondly-isn't it more merciful to administer euthanasia and end Aruna's life?because this kind of life seems worse than death.I think if she had a choice she would prefer death too-but that's just my opinion.

Samadrita said...

@Anish: Blame our society for this. The hospital authorities concealed signs of anal rape on purpose so that her marriage to her fiance didn't break up. But it did eventually of course. If sodomy could've been proven the animal would've gotten a much harsher sentence.
And yes even she would prefer death to this. Anyone would.

Pratul Bagri said...

So horrific and tragic, I cannot believe he has been termed only for 7 years....

Prateek said...

What the heck. Only 7 years imprisonment for a crime like this which almost made someone a Living Dead! It's a pity, society is not as strict as like Arab countries. Rapists can live on now but can Aruna do so? She already hate entire Men Race.

Sparkling Star said...

This is such a tragic case. Its very common in india that rapists,murderers,criminals are roaming more freely and with more dignity than the victims. :(
India's law and order system needs serious sanitation!!! More stricter laws should be implemented!

Great write up,Sammy!!

d said...

those last 3 "why"s of yours have been my question from the time i read about such many articles in newspaper.
girls may have progressed in their fields of career but the law still hasn't nor has the attitude of society

Anupam said...

Justice eludes the victims of sexual assault and girl child abuse,one more example. About one crore girls vanish every year. We young generation know the difference between lip service and and real punishment. But what can we do?
Our economic system = (Socialism + Capitalism)=(Bourgeoisie thoughts + Proletariat people).
Bit to extra 'ist' in our society (Mioist, Rapist, terrorist etc etc and extremist)."politics"
By the way a very few people know about 'Saibari killing in Burdwan' 1979 , the most horrific event that i ever heard where a mother forcibly had to eat rise with blood of her dead son by some of our present ministers of WB & their cadres after killing the entire family except her...(without describing any other kind of molestation).

Siddhesh 'Ravan' Kabe said...

I am following this case on news as well, I would point out two things, we should separate out the cause to the being.

She was brutally raped, the man was punished. Lets keep it separate. I will not comment on it.

She is paralyzed, on the hospital bed for 37 years. Yes, but can we deny her existence? Can she be proven medically dead? If we cant prove her medically dead, how can we kill her? I mean who will pull the plug? We cant deny the choice of life to someone just because the person cannot speak for him right?
What if, the person has a hope to live but his body is not responding? What if there is some sense inside which says she wants to live and trying hard to come out? Who are we to deny this? Who are we to say what is the reason her soul has not left her body for last 37 years? We see kids who go on ventilation die in a day or two, but she has not since 37 years, means there is some sense inside right? Or am I wrong?
I think we may try to kill her morally, but we should appreciate the effort of the soul which is sustaining the body for past 37 years.

Now, there is another argument, if you say there is no soul in there, only machines keeping her alive then the question comes to logistics wheather the machine should be wasted on the dead, for she is already dead. Right?

Nethra said...

That's really sad. :-( Whether supreme court agrees to kill her painlessly to end her pain or not, the culprit who did that to her will go on living comfortably. They should hang such bastards instead of putting them behind bars for awhile. x-( 7years in jail isn't enough to compensates a life that they spoil...anyway it can never be compensated. :-(

Amit Gupta said...


It is commendable that you have decided to write about this issue as it is yet another heinous crime which has been shoved down the carpet in India. But i would like to mention a few points which have are missing from this emotional outburst (and that can happen, so no worries!)

She was not raped, she was sodomized...a lot of people are mixing the two issues here. Apparently, as per reports,she was menstruating that day, hence the ward boy who went in with an intention of raping her...eventually took another way out. The reason i am stressing on this point is because believe it or not, there was no rule for sodomy in 1970s (i believe this was included as late as early 90s and very recently extended to male sodomy as well in early 2000s).

Now since the Doc in charge initially wanted to hide the anal rape from her fiancée, he misconstrued the police as an account of robbery and attempt to murder and NOT as rape/sodomy. Now, if the case registered against the victim was just of robbery/attempt to murder...court gave a right verdict of 7 years as per the law at that point of time.

My basic point is that law in itself is completely deficient to firstly deal with such cases even now, and more so at that time. Secondly,the hospital authorities are most responsible for making a mess of the case by giving wrong facts and hiding the right case. And this was obviously cracked by the defense lawyer.

And i am really sorry for nitpicking, but i would like to know the basis how you came up with a statement - "She screams every time she hears a man's voice". If you read the book or read some interview by Pinaki will know that even though she is still in a vegetative state, she really can't express her emotions, screaming is too big an emotion for her. If you have picked this from some story news, then i am sorry - it is just an exaggeration and nothing else. In fact, the nurse who is taking care of her for 20 odd years is strictly against Euthanasia for Aruna, she is of the opinion that she can take care of her till her death.

I really don't want to make it a pros and cons case of Euthanasia here because that is not the intention of this post and it is a complex topic in itself. I can feel the desperation and frustration in people here, but the culprit as in most such cases lies with the outdated and ill-conceived laws of India.

Blasphemous Aesthete said...

And we talk of justice. It is often said that justice delayed is justice denied, and in cases like these, where we are sure that she would never recover, has no one and yet, we are making her live on, I think it might be yet another case of injustice.
For the predator who did it, let him go through the same hell, because, he'll pay for it, eventually. Dogs, don't die easy.

Blasphemous Aesthete

Ananya said...

It's shocking that rapists actually get away with this...most of the cases aren't even reported. The victims are made to keep their mouths shut...that's how our society works. They are the ones who are forced to end their lives. And regarding this case, the hospital authorities are as much responsible as the fucking pervert who did this to her. And it's scary too...we are just as much vulnerable to such crime.

Purba said...

One should have the right to live and die with dignity. Whether euthanasia should be legalized is debatable especially in a country like ours, which thrives on loopholes in law.

Even reading about Aruna's plight makes us flinch, every hour of her life must be sheer agony. But complete strangers have come together to try and help her, ease her pain.

We need stricter laws for sexual assault, Men such as him will always be a threat to the well being of the society.

Samadrita said...

@Amit: Yea I know sodomy and rape are different. But sodomy is a form of sexual assault isn't it? The blame of course lies with the hospital authorities and the Dean of KEM who decided to hide signs of anal rape. If you read the article carefully you'll find I've mentioned that. That is why at the very end I've blamed our society for the way it treats a rape victim. At the end of the day it is the outlook of the people which has let Sohanlal go free with just a 7 year sentence. Social stigma is the reason why most rape cases aren't even reported in the first place.
About the part where she starts screaming every time she hears a man's voice, you're right I took that from a Times of India article which apparently has an interview of Pinki Virani. If they made that part up I'm not sure what to say. Newspapers cannot be trusted much these days.
Btw I heard she has lost the power of coherent speech. But I am not sure whether her vocal chords are as good as gone as well?
The Euthanasia bit is of course complex. But given a choice I doubt Aruna would've wanted to continue living in this pitiable state.
Btw thanks for pointing out the flaws. It always helps me to improve or try and write better. :-)

@Rest: Thanks for the comments people.

Amit Gupta said...


yes, i did read the post carefully. But i wanted to make the point of 'sodomy vs robbery', hence, i repeated the 'doctor claim' in my comment.

Most of the newspapers have become junk, everyone is into sensationalist journalism and it has little to do with the current news. I rely more on interviews (TV and not print) because you can read people expressions and react accordingly. Aruna has lost the power of speech a long time back, exactly the time when all the life support systems were also taken off it. This has been substantiated by an interview by the nurse i have mentioned in my comment.

And again, i want to reiterate 2 things - a) Court was right in giving him a sentence of 7 years because that was the case he filed.
b) Rather than filing a case for Euthanasia, why Pinaki never filed a case again for sodomy/rape? I hate to say this, but was it a case of taking advantage of someone's piteous health by writing a book, showing off your social activism skills and giving interviews in the India against the judge? Why was a case never filed against the culprit again even when everyone knows all the facts in all these years and specially, as you have mentioned, people know his current whereabouts. why are not people dragging him again to court to pay for the damages?

Lot to think about i guess....

Being Pramoda... said...

Hey Samadrite..

Thats so sad part of the story of her..i heard abt it and read many articles abt it..

its so sad that the fellow is given such punishment whr she is still lying thr helplesslyy..


wats up with you ..? .. hope u r doing well..

tc ..

Giribala said...

Heart-wrenching, sad story!

Vivek Chamoli said...

This case show , how poor is our judiciary system is and after all this event don't do something toward the victim who went through such trauma.

If one is pleading for getting relieve from the trauma its not accepted the double standard only pin-points to the root of the system that no one take it seriously enough , why so ..did one has to wait for another similar incident to take place then to decide. thats pathetic one can't decide his term has the right to do so.
Living life this way can't be think off. Sometime it make me think are we living in 21st century or not.

Something need to be done and its only possible if the young brain of INDIA takes the initiative in this area.

Linhy said...

Interesting blog you got going on here!! come checkout mine sometimes when you get a chance!

The Indian said...

I want that bastard who raped her should be given a painful death. Isn't it injustice that she suffers for 37 years and thge person responsible for it gets away in 7 years!! Are we human to accept this???

Lioness Eliya said...

The crime is sooo horrific that it leaves me speechless no matter how many times I read about it.
It compels me to write fiercely about this crime. It evokes such strong emotions within me that I could choke on it.

Anybody who is against the mercy killing, have you pondered how it would feel to see nothing, be confined to a bed, completely dependent on others while your privacy is invaded even by those trying to help you?
Will you want your undergarments to be changed by someone else while you remain motionless because of a bastardly act and hate crime against you? Have you ever thought she has the right to dignity? Nurses celebrating, think about Aruna. I get goosies just thinking about it.

Oh and what about the sorry SOB, MF,Sohanlal Bhartha Walmiki looming large out in society. 7 yrs V/s lifetime of permanent vegetative state. Where is justice? Why is SC not giving a verdict on that? Why is nobody fighting for it??

I can't write enough...I have to stop else the rantings will go on and on.

Siddhartha Joshi said...

I am left with almost no words to express every time I read about this. Now that the courts have given their judgement, maybe Aruna will be able to depart with some dignity.

But the fact remains that Sohanlal is a free and an under-punished man. If there is anything that can be done to bring her justice, it would be punish Sohanlal. I wonder if we are too forgiving as people...

D2 said...

Living and dying in dignity is something every human needs. It is so intrinsically important for our mental well-being throughout the life we live.
As far as the question of punishing that guy is in concern, knowing how cases in our country come to justice or rather, remain in the dusty shelves of the archives, it is unfortunate that action amounting to justice probably has a long way to be seen.
But we can certainly hope or the best for the future.

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