The Curious case of Shanbaug

November 1973, A nurse was finishing her duty at King Edward Memorial Hospital. Her name was Aruna Shanbaug. A hospital ward boy, Sohanlal Bhartha Valmiki saw her while she was changing her clothes in the hospital basement. He attacked her, choked her with a dog chain and held her in place, ready to be raped. But then he realised that she was menstruating, so instead he sodomised her. He orally raped her, left her with brain injuries. The asphyxiation cut off oxygen to her brain, resulting in brain stem contusion injury and cervical cord injury, and leaving her cortically blind, She was discovered the next morning at 7:45 am by a cleaner, who found her lying on the floor unconscious, with blood splattered all over.

Aruna Shanbaug lived in a vegetative state from 1973 to the year 2015, when she died in unbearable agony.

Valmiki received two concurrent 7 years if imprisonment, but not on charges of rape or sexual assault. The reason was simple enough, Aruna Shabaug was menstruating when she was attacked. And when checked by Medical examiner, he made it clear that her virginity was intact, so the case couldn’t be recorded as a Rape case. He was convicted of attempted murder and robbery because he had stolen a watch and her earrings.

Shanbaug was engaged to be married to a Junior Doctor working at KEM. But after this incident, the doctor refused to file the case so as to avoid embarrassment and humiliation in society. The then Dean of the Hospital, Dr. Deshpande chose not to report the anal rape to spare her fiancé public “embarrassment”. Her Fiance was not even a complainant in the case. Eventually he got married and then settled abroad. Valmiki served his time in prison and then he also walked free, a beneficiary of our Indian Judicial System, where sodomization is very normal in our society. Aruna Shabaug was left all alone in a hospital bed, where she was dependent on Hospital staff nurses to bring her food, water, change her clothes every single day.. Nurses who brought dignity to Aruna Shabaug, but couldn’t do much on the Justice front.

After 42 years, our judicial system has woken up from a deep sleep. Now they are actively looking for Valmiki, so that they can charge him with murder of Aruna Shanbaug. But what’s the use now? She was never alive.. When her activist wanted to fight against Valmiki in court, the court simply stated that she wasn’t raped, she was only sodomized. As if she was some cattle stock, waiting to be used in any which way someone can. In the name of protecting her reputation, the system failed her. Now, even police doesn’t have a clue where Valmiki is, is he even dead or alive? And on top of it, KEM doesn’t even have a picture of him.

3 years ago, Nirbhaya’s rapist pictures were all over the media. But a woman who was practically dead, Judiciary of India doesn’t even have a picture of her rapist. Sheer stupidity or sheer ignorance?

A woman’s plea for justice was simply ignored 42 years ago because she wasn’t raped, she was sodomized. A woman’s plea for justice was ignored because she was in a vegetative state. A woman’s plea for justice was ignored because her own fiance did not want to be a complainant in the case.

So whose fault was it? Aruna Shanbaug, for changing clothes after duty in a basement? Valmiki, for only sodomizing her and not raping her because she was menstruating? KEM, for not having proper records of employees? Judicial system of India, for still using two finger method to see whether a woman has been raped or not?

Valmiki only took 10 minutes, but Aruna, she was dead from last 42 years. Her rapist only served 7 years, she served a lifetime. 

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