Partial Justice

Ten years on, the Nirbhaya case still propels a narrow imagination of rape and punishment

28 February 2023
Protesters hold placards and shout slogans in Delhi shortly after the gang rape of a woman in December 2012. Death penalty for the accused was one of the primary demands of the public.
RAVEENDRAN/AFP/Getty Images
Protesters hold placards and shout slogans in Delhi shortly after the gang rape of a woman in December 2012. Death penalty for the accused was one of the primary demands of the public.
RAVEENDRAN/AFP/Getty Images

There was unusual activity outside Delhi’s Tihar Jail in the pre-dawn hours of 20 March 2020. The jail’s security had been fortified with additional battalions of the central reserved police force, and a crowd of spectators and media persons were gathered outside. As morning drew closer, the crowd began to get more and more energised. The moment that they had been waiting for was almost here—at 5.30 am, four convicts accused of gangraping a woman in Delhi in 2012, were due to be hanged.

Anchors on mainstream news channels, who had been delivering high-octane coverage through the night, began a jubilant countdown a few minutes before the execution. When the clock struck five-thirty, cheers went up in the studios and the crowd. One protestor distributed sweets, another held up a placard proclaiming the morning as the “the dawn of justice.” TV channel headlines announced that justice had “finally” been delivered and that the rapists got “what they deserve.”

This past winter marked ten years since the rape of Jyoti Singh, which came to be known as the Nirbhaya case. The incident had sparked massive protests and uproar, bringing the case into national spotlight. Thousands in Delhi protested near Parliament and candle light vigils were held at the India Gate. The case became a pivotal moment. The discourse on sexual violence in India can now be cleanly divided into a pre- and post-Nirbhaya phase. 

Don't want to read further? Stay in touch

  • Free newsletters. updates. and special reads
  • Be the first to hear about subscription sales
  • Register for Free

    Surabhi Kanga is the web editor at The Caravan.

    Keywords: rape laws Delhi gang-rape rape Sexual Assault Caste in media caste violence caste atrocities Caravan 2023 Rewind: Perspectives
    COMMENT