Braveheart girl lit a flame

Photographs and text by Subrata Biswas

India was stunned when a 23 year old female physiotherapy intern was beaten and brutally gang raped by six men on a moving bus in New Delhi on 16 December, 2012 and thrown out of the vehicle, almost dead. She was first taken to Safdarjang Hospital, received multiple surgeries, and was placed on mechanical ventilation. Though still critical, the victim tried her best to communicate with her doctors by writing notes. On 26 December, 2012 she was moved to Singapore for further treatment, where she died on 29 December while undergoing emergency treatment for brain and gastrointestinal damage from the assault.

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?Subrata Biswas


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?Subrata Biswas

As the details of the case became public, outrage and protests overtook the nation. People across the nation and the world are taking up the case to stage protest against rape and a Government, which is still snoozing. Major public protests took place in New Delhi on 21 December, 2012 at India Gate and Raisina Hill, the latter being the location of both the Parliament of India and Rashtrapati Bhawan, the official residence of the President of India.
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Braving the bitter cold, thousands of protesters demanding an early justice clashed with police, overturned cars, and battled Rapid Action Force units. Demonstrators were lathi charged, shot with water cannons, tear gas shells, and arrested. Around 375 tear gas canisters were used at India Gate and elsewhere in Delhi to disperse the crowds. Protesters believed the Indian Government failed to act positively or give credible assurances to the protesters, and instead used police force to stop the protests, restoring to lathi charging, pushing the media out of the scene and shutting down metro rail stations. Delhi police had imposed section 144 in various places of the national capital.
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Seven metro rail stations close to India Gate were closed on 22 December, 2012 to discourage protesters from gathering at Raisina Hill. On 24 December, 2012 police blocked roads leading to India Gate and Raisina Hill to prevent possible mass protests. Nine metro rail stations were closed on that day, affecting thousands of transit patrons. News reporters were not allowed to reach India Gate and Raisina Hill. In addition to CrPC section 144, which disallows assembly of groups larger than five, curfew was imposed near the Presidential residence.
In spite of all these hurdles, the incident has generated international coverage and was condemned by the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of woman, who called on the Government of India and the Government of Delhi ?to do everything in their power to take up radical reforms, ensure justice and reach out with robust public services to make women?s lives more safe and secure.? The 23 years old girl failed to return from ventilation. But she showed that our society, our system is also under ventilation. It?s high time to awaken our society and realise that we are the doctors to help our society, our system to get rid of it. So take responsibility and help our system, our society to wean ourselves from the ventilator.

Author: Shahidul Alam

Time Magazine Person of the Year 2018. A photographer, writer, curator and activist, Shahidul Alam obtained a PhD in chemistry before switching to photography. His seminal work “The Struggle for Democracy” contributed to the removal of General Ershad. Former president of the Bangladesh Photographic Society, Alam set up the Drik agency, Chobi Mela festival and Pathshala, South Asian Media Institute, considered one of the finest schools of photography in the world. Shown in MOMA New York, Centre Georges Pompidou, Royal Albert Hall and Tate Modern, Alam has been guest curator of Whitechapel Gallery, Winterthur Gallery and Musee de Quai Branly. His awards include Mother Jones, Shilpakala Award and Lifetime Achievement Award at the Dali International Festival of Photography. Speaker at Harvard, Stanford, UCLA, Oxford and Cambridge universities, TEDx, POPTech and National Geographic, Alam chaired the international jury of the prestigious World Press Photo contest. Honorary Fellow of Royal Photographic Society, Alam is visiting professor of Sunderland University in UK and advisory board member of National Geographic Society. John Morris, the former picture editor of Life Magazine describes his book “My journey as a witness”, (listed in “Best Photo Books of 2011” by American Photo), as “The most important book ever written by a photographer.” His recent book “The Tide Will Turn” published by Steidl in 2020, is listed in New York Time’s ‘Best Art Books of 2020’. Alam received the “International Press Freedom Award” for 2020 from ‘The Committee to Protect Journalists’.

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