The Nirbhaya gang rape and murder case:
The story of Nirbhaya, a resident of Delhi, is as grisly and gruesome, as it can possibly be. The 23 year old intern was travelling in a bus with a friend, when six other individuals present in the bus attacked her, including the driver of the bus. Nirbhaya was brutally raped by these six men and later almost beaten to death. Nirbhaya succumbed to her injuries 13 days later, in a Singapore hospital, under emergency treatment. Of the 6 accused, one died in police custody, possibly murdered. The juvenile involved in the case got a prison sentence of maximum three years in a correctional facility. The remaining four were impeached of rape and murder and given a death sentence. The Nirbhaya gang rape and murder case triggered a countrywide outrage and denounced both the Government of India and Delhi for being incapable of providing adequate security to women.
This tragedy took place in Munirka, South Delhi. In the face of the violent outrage, the South Delhi Municipal Corporation (SDMC) had announced the dedication of the Children Resource Center (Museum), in the memory of Nirbhaya and renaming it ‘the Brave heart Museum’. As heartlessly commented by the SDMC leader of the house, Subhash Arya, “We have decided to name the museum after the girl since there was a lot of public outrage around the issue (gang – rape). In the past we have named our roads and community centers after freedom fighters and Kargil martyrs. Similarly we thought of naming the museum after the girl”. It is to be noted that Arya refrained from even taking the name of Nirbhaya, as if ‘the girl’ had no name!
The Children Resource Center (Museum):
The Children Resource Center (Museum) in Sector 6, R K Puram , South Delhi, was inaugurated on 27th September, 1985, by the then Union Education Minister, Krishna Chandra Pant. The museum shares the premises with a primary school, under the supervision of the South Delhi Corporation. The Children Resource Center was founded with the sole intention of imparting easy going education to the under – privileged students, studying in the MCD schools. A total of six curriculum oriented galleries in the museum provides an all round perspective through the showcasing of its various exhibits, an effective form of imparting of so called ‘Non – Formal Education’, to the under privileged children.
The museum, however, is in a state of dilapidation. Upon entering the six roomed construction, one is confronted by a statue that might have been a Tyrannosaurus Rex, once upon a time. The six drab and discolored rooms have been demarcated into diverse sectors namely – Body and Health, Transportation, History of Man, Ecology, India’s Energy Resources and Earth and the Origin of Life. While five rooms, in spite of their derelict condition, are still functional, the India’s Energy Resources room is locked up and serves the purpose of a storeroom. The long gloomy hallway has big patches of green in sections to contain the rabbits. Certain section of the roof looks as if it might cave in any time. The empty, dingy reception is coming apart at the seams, and needs immediate dismantling and reconstruction. However, this dilapidated institute is still serving its noble purpose of imparting education, and records a footfall of 25000 to 30000 students, which includes students from MCD schools, physically challenged students from different NGOs, as well as students from private schools. Movies are screened for the visitors, everyday, to entertain, as well as educate them.
As per the description of a media team, who visited the said institution, stickers are probably in every corner of the building, tagging that particular section, for overhauling. The incessant overhauling signs further confirm the dereliction of the said museum.
The proposed Brave – Heart Museum:
Nirbhaya, the 23 year old girl, and the December 16th gang rape victim, has been conveniently erased from the memory of those who seem to have pledged to make her immortal, through benevolent enterprises. One such noble enterprise, as officially announced by the South Delhi Municipal Corporation (SDMC), on February 6th, 2013, was to dedicate the Children Resource Center (Museum) to Nirbhaya and rename it as the ‘Brave – Heart Museum’. The announcement came in the face of the tremendous anti – rape demonstrations, activated by the ghastly gang rape of Nirbhaya, which also highlighted the issues of the insecurity of women. But as of 3rd November, 2013, nine months had elapsed, the promise and the associated decision still remains a mirage. Ex – Delhi BJP president Vijendar Gupta made the tall claim of renaming the Children Resource Center (Museum) after Nirbhaya, at a press meet, which was also attended by the close relatives of the deceased victim.
A part of the announcement was to earmark a budget of Rs 20 crores, for the proposed renovation of the dilapidated Children Resource Center (Museum), before renaming it and the refurbishments were scheduled to be completed by March 31st, 2014, i.e. by the end of the current fiscal.
However the Children Resource Center (Museum) remains untouched, with barely five months left for the end of the current fiscal. The excuse given by the SDMC is one of fund starvation. As per the statement of Subhash Arya, SDMC leader of the House, “The funds for the proposed renovations are still stuck in the paperwork”. He further added that, “The Government agencies that are to fund the project will disburse the money soon since the proposal to rename the facility has been approved by the House”. While an SDMC source confirms that the refurbishments will not commence before April 2014, because the grants are firmly enmeshed in paperwork, Arya maintains that the necessary funds will be available, ‘soon’. In fact, as further confirmed by a senior SDMC official, the municipal authorities are yet to decide the construction firm, to be vested with the responsibilities of renovation, whereas quite contrary to this, Mr. Arya claimed, “A Government agency has been chosen to renovate the premises but work has not started yet…..the renovations will be carried out under the PPP model of build – operate – transfer”.
The announcement for the proposed project came at a time, when the anti – rape protests was at its zenith. The announcement, evidently, was a political touch to assuage the grief – stricken demonstrators. The urgency for the proposed project, as displayed by SDMC, was merely a façade and as soon as the protests subsided, the issue conveniently slipped off the conscience of SDMC. As of now, the whole attitude of SDMC, towards the project, can be best described as one of utter ignorance.
The reaction of the Museum employees:
As per the statements of Dhruv Prasad Soni, assistant curator, the Children Resource Center (Museum), for the last 18 years, “The officials have been making promises for a while now but nothing has been done yet. The plan to renovate this museum was mooted by the erstwhile MCD. I would still like to believe that they (civic officials) realize the importance of the museum and the children it caters to and get the work started at the earliest”. Soni confirmed of the repeated attempts that has been made for the refurbishment of the museum, and how they have ended in a cul-de-sac. Soni further added that, if an investment of Rs 20 crores is made in the museum, the Children Resource Center has enough possibilities of ranking amongst the top museums of the country. The statements of another employee, claiming anonymity, was conducive with the statements of Mr Soni, which further highlighted the total disdain of the civic authorities regarding the renovation issue, for the last 27 years.
What is the most fragile thing in this country? A politician’s promise, of course ! The Nirbhaya gang rape and murder case had received extensive coverage and the politicians seized the chance of making an issue out of it. There is also another angle. The public outrage had to be fed something, to cool it down. Naturally, out came the tall claims and promises, meant to be broken. Does it really matter to the SDMC/BJP, in the long run, when a physiotherapist intern is raped and beaten to death???