'I am unable to shake off the guilt'
A year ago, Avanindra Pandey was like any other software engineer; however, the heinous December 16 gang rape in the Capital, has left him shaken, wracked with grief; the sole witness to the incident says it will be years before he can be the same
He was the sole eye-witness to the barbaric gang rape of a young woman on December 16 last year. A year after the heinous incident that outraged the entire nation, the woman’s friend, Avanindra Pandey, said he is still plagued by guilt and shock, and will never be the same again for years.
Pandey (29), who had boarded the private bus from south Delhi’s Munirka bus stop along with the 23-year-old trainee physiotherapist on that fateful night, said the only satisfaction he has was that four of the accused have been sentenced to death.
But Pandey has one more demand: the accused minor should be given a harsher punishment.
“I often ask myself if I am to blame for this? Why did I go to that mall? Why did I board that bus? I was not able to even speak properly for two weeks afterwards,” said Pandey, a software engineer.
“I survived that night and am alive to tell the tale,” Pandey said.His friend died 13 days after the brutal attack.
Recalling the 84 minutes of horror he had spent in the moving bus as the rapists, including a minor, tortured and brutalised his friend, Pandey recounting the incident, says, “After watching the movie, we tried to hire an auto and go to her home (in Dwarka in southwest Delhi) but the drivers refused to go.
Then, we asked one of them to take us to the Munirka bus stop. We reached the bus stop where we spotted the private bus that was already standing there. A boy (one of the six accused) was calling us to get on board.”
He said he felt that something was wrong when they sat down in the bus.
“I had an intuition that something was wrong. The five men behaved as if they were the passengers. A boy came to us and asked money for tickets. They then locked the doors of the bus and switched off the lights,” he recounts, adding, “The three men then came towards us and one of them punched me on the face. A scuffle broke out between us. They snatched our phones and beat us with rods.”
Pandey further states, “They dragged me away so that they could attack her. I tried to scream and seek help from outside. I also tried to break the window pane but couldn’t as I was semi-conscious.”
He said after raping his friend, the attackers threw both of them out of the bus without any clothes. “I tried to get up and wave at the moving traffic. Some cars stopped, saw us and left without helping. A highway patrol van spotted us and called police and we were taken to the hospital,” Pandey added.
The young man said he was deeply shocked to see how people kept staring at him at the Safdarjung Hospital but no one even gave him clothes.
The youth said he was satisfied that one of the six accused Ram Singh met his end by hanging himself in Tihar Jail around three months after the incident, while four others have been given the death penalty.
“The juvenile should also be given a harsh punishment because he will easily get freedom from reformatory home though he was the most brutal,” Pandey added. “I am yet to recover from that night. I am still in shock. I am unable to shake away the guilt. I don’t know, it will take years for me to be the same again. I am scared for life.”
Verdict on death for rapists likely in January
The Delhi High Court verdict in the December 16 gang rape case confirming the death sentence of the four accused is likely to be delivered in January, lawyers said. The high court has been hearing appeals of the four accused and arguments on the death sentence on a daily basis in the sensational case of the 23-year-old who was brutally raped in 2012. Sharing their anguish about the delay in the verdict, the parents of the victim said, “We want the culprits to be hanged as soon as possible.”
Following the incident, the Delhi police have improved:
>> Increasing man power. Now the Vasant Vihar police station has 150 staff, including 25 women
>> The police station has two emergency response vehicles
>> A separate room for the interrogation of women accused hasbeen set up -- the first one in Delhi, while one more lock up has been added.
The number of rapes reported at the police station this year
Water activist Amla Ruia speaks to mid-day