The death of 20 year old Anjali singh in India's national capital has shaken the country, a terrible start to 2023. This young woman was riding home on her scooter in the early hours of New Year’s Day, when a car with 5 allegedly drunk men in it, hit the scooty.
She was entangled in the car’s front axle and ended up being dragged under the car for nearly 13 kilometres. The accused, who have now been arrested, claim they didn’t know she was there but eyewitnesses suggested they did. One man said the car kept taking u turns, perhaps in a bid to shake off the body.
Most glaring of all is the role of the police. What were they doing on what is supposed to be one of the most patrolled nights of the year? More than 18,000 cops were supposed to be on duty in the capital. The car drove through areas that should have had more than 20 police vans on duty.
When slogans mean nothing
CCTV footage shows a police van on the same road. We know that at least five calls were made to the police alerting them to this car. One witness, a shopkeeper, made 20 calls. But it took nearly two hours between the first call to the police and finding Anjali’s body. Why?
Anjali’s killing comes just over 10 years after the brutal gangrape and murder of Nirbhaya, a crime that shook the country and forced a serious conversation on women’s safety. But what has changed a decade later?
Are the slogans about keeping women safe just that: slogans that mean nothing?
What is worse is how the narrative shifted to victim blaming in Anjali’s case. A supposed “friend” named Nidhi was suddenly discovered by the police two days after the murder, who it turns out, was riding with Anjali on the scooter when the car hit them.
Nidhi received minor injuries and fled. She claims she was too scared to say anything. Later, she became an eyewitness in the incident after the police tracked her down. Nidhi claims Anjali was drunk when she drove the scooter.
A claim completely disputed by the autopsy. But Nidhi’s statements and conduct raise disturbing questions. What kind of friend doesn’t deem it fit to call the cops when she sees her friend’s body being dragged under a car?
Sole bread-earner for family
She just kept quiet and didn’t come forward herself. And as Nirbhaya’s mother, Asha Devi rightly said on my NDTV programme last week, even IF Anjali had too much to drink, did that justify what those men did to her? In any case the post mortem did not show alcohol in her body.
Anjali Singh was the sole bread-earner for her family and supported her family which includes an ailing mother, four sisters and two younger brothers.
After her father died last year, she supported her family and paid for her mother's dialysis by working part-time at an event management company. She bought the purple scooter with her own hard earned money and was paying off a loan for it.
Her death also highlights the lack of safe public spaces for women in our cities. She was driving home after working all day. It shows how vulnerable women are at night on our roads.
The road she was driving on has several dark stretches. The Indian Express spoke to a rickshaw driver in the area who said the streetlights in one part have not worked for three years.
Anjali was a human being. We can’t let her death become a statistic. Everyone failed her: her friend, the police and a system that still takes women’s safety for granted. Sadly, nothing much has changed since Nirbhaya.