|Vinay Sharma’s mother at her house in New Delhi on Friday. Picture by Prem Singh
New Delhi, Sept. 13: After the death sentence to her son, Vinay Sharma’s mother hopes her daughters would be able to go to school again.
Neighbour Poonam Lal, 22, hopes her Delhi University friends would again start dropping in at her home, as they did before the December 16 gang rape.
Poonam and Vinay’s mother, Champa Devi, are residents of south Delhi’s Ravidass Camp, a working-class colony whose people became social outcasts after five of the six accused were arrested from there.
Now they are hoping the death sentences will bring closure, allowing them to resume the anonymous lives that was theirs before the colony was tagged “Criminal Camp” and Vinay’s two sisters stopped going to school to avoid being addressed as “rapist’s sister”.
“Sometimes I don’t even feel like telling people that I live in Ravidass Camp,” said Poonam, a history student.
“Since my home is near the DU campus, my college friends used to come down regularly. But after the gang rape, they made it clear they didn’t want to come here any more. Hopefully, they will eventually forget about the case and its association with our colony.”
Rajesh, a close friend of Vinay who wouldn’t give his surname, had an appeal for “the entire country” — “This camp is not full of criminals; don’t brand all of us criminals, please.”
He expressed regret at the fate of his 20-year-old friend: “I wish Vinay were given a life sentence. He is so young; maybe he could have reformed himself. Now there’s no chance.”
Ram Singh, the driver of the bus where the crime took place, is perhaps the most hated among the five at the colony. He killed himself at Tihar days after his arrest but his brother Mukesh has been sentenced to hang.
Behari Lal, the so-called pradhan of Ravidass Camp, however, had a word of sympathy for him.
“Ram wasn’t all that bad. He adopted his brother’s child and was happy. But when his wife died in 2008, he took to drinking and got into bad company. He used to fight regularly with other people,” Lal said.
He obliquely made a point the defence lawyers have been arguing: that the accused had been convicted so fast because they were poor.
“I respect the judiciary but the law should be the same for everyone. If this case sets a precedent for other such cases, then it should be applied to all,” Lal said.
He added: “I hope this is the end of the affair since the future of a lot of children in the camp depends on us not being branded as a place that hoards criminals.”
Since the arrest of Ram and Mukesh, the latter’s son (adopted by Ram) has been withdrawn from the private school where he went and now goes to a free government school.
If relief at the trial’s conclusion was the predominant emotion on the neighbours’ minds, the parents of the convicts were overwhelmed with pain.
The father of Pawan Gupta, 19, who hadn’t eaten since the convictions on Tuesday, couldn’t get up from the floor where he lay.
As the small TV set in the room blared the news of his son’s imminent hanging, all he could say was: “He was my son, after all. Now the people of this country have killed him.”
Champa Devi said: “All over the country, people are rejoicing at my child’s (impending) death. But how can a mother even think of losing her child?”
“He is dead; I want to die too,” she said and collapsed on the floor, sobbing.
Rajesh said: “Please give the camp some privacy. His (Vinay’s) family needs to be alone now.”