Family pinned hopes on daughter for a better life

Father sold land to pay for her studies, and she gave tuition to help with fees too

 
The body of the woman being removed yesterday from a Hindu Casket van for embalming at a funeral parlour in Geylang Bahru. -- ST PHOTO: NURIA LING

She was called Nirbhaya (fearless), Damini (lightning - after a character from a 1990s Bollywood movie who fights for justice) and Amanaat (treasure) by the Indian media following her brave fight against death after a brutal gang rape.

For her family, she also stood for "hope" as they were depending on the 23-year-old physiotherapy student to complete her studies and provide them with a better life. But it was not to be. She died of grievous injuries at Mount Elizabeth Hospital yesterday.

Her father, a cargo loader at New Delhi airport earning a monthly salary of 5,000 rupees (S$110), had sold the family's small land-holding to pay for her education as a physiotherapist in Dehradun in the northern state of Uttarakhand.

She also gave tuition to help pay her school and college fees, Indian media reports said.

The family - who hail from Ballia district in Uttar Pradesh state but who have lived in Delhi for the last 25 years - are so poor that they often have to make do with a meal of roti (Indian bread) and salt.

Her parents had hoped that their daughter, who was born and brought up in Delhi, would help to educate her two younger brothers, one of whom is preparing for entrance exams for an engineering course and the other who is still in school.

"I have heard that people sell their land for their daughter's marriage or for their son's studies, but not for their daughter's studies," said Ms Meira Kumar, Speaker of the Indian Parliament's Lower House, who was among those who visited the family at Delhi's Safdarjung Hospital, where the young woman was warded before being airlifted to Singapore.

Prior to the attack, the woman was in the midst of completing her internship at a private hospital in Delhi.

That she was a fighter was evident in the small notes that she wrote and the gestures she made afterwards, during her hours of consciousness at the Delhi hospital. Unable to speak because of a tube in her throat, she wrote, "Have they been caught?" and "I want to live", when her parents visited her for the first time, three days after the attack.

"They must be punished," she wrote on Dec21, according to the Press Trust of India.

In one note, she said her ATM card and mobile phone were missing. Her brother assured her that the card had been blocked.

"Lift my leg", "clean my throat, it's burning" were some of the other phrases she had written. She also asked about the condition of her friend, who had been beaten in the attack.

When she was able to speak, she gave statements twice to a magistrate.

When the decision to move her to Singapore was taken, both the girl's and her family's passports and visas were expedited by the Ministry of External Affairs.

Sources told The Indian Express newspaper that officers used burqas and decoy vans to keep the media at bay when arranging for photos to be taken and forms to be filled in.

In Ballia, a pall of gloom has descended since her death was announced, said The Times of India.

"Our hearts are weeping. Hanging is not enough - we want to see the culprits bear the same torture and pain that killed our beloved daughter," said an elderly member of the family.

In Delhi, the family of her male friend demanded that the six accused be hanged "as soon as possible".

nilasen@ sph.com.sg

(Compiled from Indian media reports)