MUMBAI: It was a phone call that no parent wants to receive. But on the fateful night of December 16, 2012, the parents of a 23-year-old Indian medical student had the police on the line saying their child has been taken to the hospital. Little did they know that what lay ahead would not only change their life forever, but shake the conscience of an entire nation and effect a concrete change in its judicial system.
What started as an ordinary evening at the movies for this young girl, turned out to be an unimaginable night of horror as she was raped, brutally beaten and violated by a group of men in a bus and then left to die on the roadside. This month, CNN’s World’s Untold Stories: The Fearless One recounts this young student’s courageous struggle for life before succumbing to injuries that her attendant doctor described as the most “atrocious, unbelievable” he had seen in his career spanning four decades. The documentary examines how her suffering brought together a nation’s public to demand justice for a girl that they had never seen, whose very name was unknown to them*, and how her enduring legacy has left a lasting impact on India’s social fabric.
The depravity and inhumanity of the crime meant that the men gang raped and violated a girl with an iron rod while out for a “joyride” and showed no signs of remorse, being “very casual” and “cracking jokes” throughout their trial. CNN recounts the horrible chain of events of that night through extensive interviews with the girl’s parents, the police investigators and doctors. Viewers hear from the parents about the brave young girl who was the family’s “pillar of strength” and their hope for a better life and also from the investigating police officers about the arrogance of the rapists who “didn’t think they would get caught”. They will hear from the doctors about her incredible fighting spirit which prevailed despite her grievous internal injuries “unparalleled, unheard neither before nor after.”
The documentary also chronicles the nationwide protests which erupted to say that ‘enough was enough’ and that more needed to be done to protect women in India. The protestors braved tear gas and water cannons in Delhi’s bitter winter chill to demand justice. Their support provided the victim’s parents the courage to “put up a tough fight” and made them feel that “humanity still prevails on this earth.”
Finally, The Fearless One highlights the legacy that this brave girl created. This included a change in India’s law against sexual offences, as well as smaller but equally-significant change visible on-ground with the police officers reporting that people “have got emboldened” to report sexual crimes of all hues. It sheds light on the bereaved parents’ hope that their daughter’s fight will lead to more “positive changes in the future” keeping her “alive in one form or the other”.
*Indian law prohibits revealing the identity of a rape victim