The murder of Radhika Tanwar, a 2nd year student of Ram Lal Anand College on 8th of March which also coincidentally happens to be International Women’s Day has caused extensive outrage in the city and raised questions once again over the law and order situation in the capital. Radhika, a resident of Naraina, was shot at point blank range in the spine by an unknown assailant near a foot-over bridge in Satya Niketan at 10:20 AM on the 8th. A friend, who happened to be accompanying Radhika, gave chase to the killer but lost him in the crowd teeming with office-goers and college students. A senior police official managed to get Radhika to Safdarjang Hospital after 30 minutes of the shooting. She was declared brought dead.
The killer, who was believed to be a stalker, has now been identified as Vijay, alias Ram Singh. His associates, Ashraf and Tabrez, were detained from Sitapur in Uttar Pradesh, about 400 km from Delhi. The three used to work in a weaving and knitting factory in Naraina as daily wage labourers. The attacker was asked to quit his job after being beaten up three and a half years back for stalking Radhika. The police believe the attacker killed Radhika to avenge humiliation and also stated that the killer would be arrested soon.
Following the killing, a large number of students in Delhi University, South Campus expressed anger and resentment against the lack of security for students and blocked the Ring Road. They were also joined by locals in this agitation. The incident provided fodder for leaders of political parties to point fingers at the Union Home Ministry, blaming it for the incident in entirety. The students’ anger over the incompetence of Delhi Police showed no signs of subsiding and they put forth the sentiment quite vehemently during a protest march from India Gate to Ram Lal Anand College the following day. Facebook groups demanding ‘Justice for Radhika’ and rampant text messages inviting the entire student community to unite for a cause were omnipresent on the 9th and 10th of March. ABVP called for a DU ‘bandh’ and candlelight protests for the same. Nikhil, a third year B.Com student stated, “All of us here are deeply saddened and vow to keep on fighting till justice is delivered. Radhika was a very good friend. She was good in studies and was the only one among us who actually attended classes. She did not deserve to die such a cruel death so early.”
Teachers were also quite appalled by the incident with a professor for History in RLA saying, “I offer my heartfelt condolences to the family of the deceased and hope this heinous crime acts as a timely eye opener for all the authorities involved in ensuring that not just the university but the entire city becomes a safer place. I also earnestly request the students to remain calm as I’m sure the culprit will be put to justice before long.”
Parents too expressed concern over the safety of their children travelling to their respective colleges by themselves, “It is sad, it is tragic, but most of all it is shocking how in a crowded public thoroughfare, at 10 in the morning, someone can put a bullet in a girl and get away with it. We cannot have such incidents happen and that too right under our nose. Sadly the thing that worries most parents today isn’t their child’s academic performance but the fact that he/she returns home in one piece.”
However, the irony behind the situation here is the fact that, despite demanding justice vehemently and expressing angst against the killing, not one out of the multitude of people present on the foot-over bridge that day volunteered to take Radhika to the hospital or offer any kind of assistance to the official of police who ultimately did so. Moreover, in an uncannily similar situation as that of the Jessica Lal murder case, no one seemed to have witnessed the incident. It is quite preposterous to believe that in one of the most crowded places of Satya Niketan, no one should have seen the murder. Even after the police released a sketch of the suspect, no one came forward as a witness.
In such a scenario it makes perfect sense to doubt the real reasons behind mass agitation and the imposed ‘bandh’ in DU colleges. Besides the evident hypocrisy that comes to light, there is also the disruption of classes adding as an incentive for students to go on strike. Although certain colleges have complied with the ABVP’s demands, certain other colleges have not put teaching on hold in a bid to not ‘fall for the students’’ ploy. However, these students won’t be deterred, and Apoorv, a first year BCom student from Motilal Nehru College stated, “We plan to march through every college in DU till the killer is behind bars. We will let the authorities know that we are capable of snatching our rights if they’re denied. Until DU can guarantee that girls will not need to carry around pepper spray instead of books, these protests will continue.”
There is anger among the students and it is justified but the question remains, is this the right way to go about resolving the issue?
Timeline: How the events unfolded
8th March, 10:20 am: Radhika Tanwar (21) was attacked by an unidentified man on the foot-over-bridge in Satya Niketan area. A man came from behind and opened fire at her. A bullet hit her stomach. The attacker managed to flee the scene soon after the incident.
9th March: Widespread outrage amongst the students, with fingers pointing towards lack of security in the campus area. A peace march scheduled for the day from Satya Niketan to India Gate asking students to turn up in full force .Questions raised on the absence of a PCR van from the area of incidence.
10th March: Students flock Ram Lal Anand College, joined in by members of Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) and National Student Union of India. Various protests being held across South Campus, calling for riot control police in colleges.
11th March: Strike called by ABVP for Friday and Saturday, while the Delhi University Student Union continued its protests across south and north campus. Some colleges forced to close given the tense situation. Deputy Commissioner of Police H.G.S Dhaliwal declares that Delhi Police close to cracking the case after zeroing in on Vijay alias Ram Singh, 25, from Sitapur, UP as the prime suspect.
Shefali Thaman, 3rd year Psychology (H), Kamla Nehru College
On this case: “Being a psychology student I feel that beating the suspect as reported was not a solution for the stalking and it only instigated him. But no way can his actions be justified.”
On eve teasing: “There was this guy who used to stand outside Gargi at a place called ‘Mithas; everyday waiting for someone which is very creepy. If this isn’t stalking then what is?”
Any solution: “As girls, we have to be more vigilant and if there is any hint of a guy stalking a woman, they should report it to the police. Although that is where the problem lies, we think twice before going to the police who aren’t very approachable either. It’s high time, instead of blaming each other:, the government, the police, the media, we all should act. Only when the blame game ends can something happen.”
Anubha Sarkar, 2nd year Journalism (H), Lady Sri Ram College
On the protests: “What will strikes and protests do? Ask the witnesses to come forward, and what are theyprotesting for: The murder incident or for the safety of women?”
Any solution: “They should implore the witnesses to come forward and put in place witness protection system. Any change comes from the roots, if a person has grown up in a household where they treat women badly then he will grow up to be like that. In school they should have gender sensitization courses- boys and girls should be taught to respect each other. For things to change its the thinking of society which needs to be altered ,so despite the fact that I am in a liberal household my parents won’t allow me to go out at night because the men out there aren’t liberal. It’s a prevailing social conditioning everywhere in India.”
Shashank Gupta & Urvi Gupta