London, Jan. 6: Two British tabloids — the Sunday Mirror and the Sunday People — today carried the same interview with the father of the Delhi rape victim in which he has named his 23-year-old daughter.
The headline reads: “Indian gang rape victim’s father: I want the world to know my daughter’s name is....”
The strapline under the heading says: “Devastated dad tells the Sunday People he hopes revealing her name will give courage to other women who have survived such attacks.”
By putting this line in, the papers will hope to deflect any criticism they attract for seeking to identify the rape victim.
Under British law, since this is now a case of rape and murder rather than just rape, those charged would have been named, other than the 17-year-old, along with the victim.
But since charges have been laid, the papers have certainly infringed the British law on sub judice which prevents evidence being discussed ahead of the conclusion of the trial. The penalty in a murder trial — especially in the climate created by the Leveson inquiry into media ethics — would be exemplary.
However, the papers could argue that in India where the initial trial proceedings are being held in camera and the role of police is being questioned, there are extenuating circumstances that justify the interview. In Britain, no editor would be foolish enough to carry an interview with the father of a murder victim ahead of the trial.
The interview was conducted in the father’s ancestral village in Uttar Pradesh. His photograph is used along with those of his relatives but not of his daughter.
The father recalls the events of December 16. When he got back home from work at 10.30pm, he found his wife was worried that their daughter, “a medical school graduate”, had not returned after watching a film.
“We started calling her mobile and her friend’s mobile but there was no answer,” the father said. “Then at 11.15pm, we got a call from the hospital in Delhi telling me my daughter had been in an accident.”
A friend rushed him to hospital on a motorbike. “When I first saw her she was in the bed with her eyes closed. I put my hand on her forehead and called her name. She slowly opened her eyes and started crying and said she was in pain. I held my tears. I told her not to worry, have strength and everything will be all right.”
A policeman explained what had happened to his daughter. “I immediately called my wife and sons and told them to come to the hospital. But I couldn’t tell them about the rape,” the father said.
For 10 days, his daughter slipped in and out of consciousness and there were hopes she would survive. “Doctors did their best to save her. She spoke a few times but mostly through gestures. She had a feeding pipe in her mouth, making it difficult for her to speak. But she did write on some paper that she wanted to live, she wanted to survive and stay with us. But it was fate that had the last say in the end.”
His weeping wife was with their daughter when the latter provided two statements to the police.
“She then told me what happened,” he said. “I don’t have the words to describe the incident. All I can say is they’re not human, not even animals. They’re not of this world. It was just gruesome and I hope no one ever goes through what she had to endure. She cried a lot, she was in a lot of pain. But after that she was a courageous girl, even trying to console us and give us hope that everything will be all right.”
In Singapore, where his daughter was taken for specialist treatment, “I told her everything would be OK and we’ll soon be back home. She was excited when we talked about going home and she smiled. I put my hand on her forehead, she asked me if I’d had dinner and then she gestured for me to go to sleep. I held her hand and kissed it. I told her to take rest and not to worry and she closed her eyes.”
It is assumed the father spoke in Hindi. “I so desperately wanted her to survive, even though she would have to live with a memory of that attack and get through her trauma. We’re so devastated that she’s gone. There’s a huge void in our lives. She was the centre of our universe. Our lives revolved around her. Her absence is so painful, a future without her is unimaginable.”
The father said the 28-year-old man his daughter was with was her friend and not her boyfriend. “There was no question of her marrying because we belong to different castes. She never expressed a desire to marry. She was concentrating on her studies and wanted a job first.”
The man had tried bravely to defend his daughter. “She kept telling her mother he tried his best to help but they kept beating him with a rod.”
He and his wife also have two sons, aged 20 and 15. His daughter had finished a four-year course in physiotherapy and was doing an internship, with high hopes that her earnings would one day lift the family out of poverty. He moved to Delhi in 1983 after selling some land to finance his daughter’s studies.
His daughter had said she would change her family’s circumstances. “It’s hard living in Delhi on my wages, very hard.... She wanted to change our lives once she got a job.”
In Britain, in house lawyers would put a red pencil through the following sentence even if true: “DNA tests have linked five men and a 17-year-old from the bus with rape and murder.”
Lawyers for the defence would argue that since it was impossible for the accused to receive a fair trial, the charges ought to be dropped. The attorney-general would come down very heavily on such a paper and its editor.
The father apparently “invited” the interviewers to look through a family album with pictures of his daughter. Each photo showed his daughter smiling.