Welcome back fellow humans, I hope you are all well.
I am about to discuss the sequence of saddening events that befell an Indian nurse Aruna Shanbaug, who lost everything and lived in pain till the end because of violence and vengeance committed by Sohanlal Bharta Walmiki.
Aruna was a studious girl, who left her village in Karnataka to become a nurse in Mumbai at the age of 18. She passed her exams and joined King Edward Memorial (KEM) Hospital as a junior nurse on the 15th February 1966. She began working in the neurosurgery division and subsequently transferred to the dog surgery division. She was assigned to the feeding and wellbeing of the dogs, maintaining acceptable hygienic standards in the operation theatre and kennels. As days passed by, Aruna was praised for her devotion towards her duties and responsibilities by staff members and valued by her patients.
Aruna was saving up money for a new house and her marriage to Dr Sardesai. However, the ward attendant, Sohanlal was plotting to ruin Aruna because she refused to give him days off to visit his sick mother-in-law and she threatened to report him to the authorities for stealing the food of the dogs used in medical experiments. On the night of November 27th, 1973, she was sexually assaulted and robbed by Sohanlal in the hospital’s basement as she was changing. He choked her with an iron chain while he was assaulting her. Her battered body was discovered by a cleaner in the morning. She was left with severe brain and cervical cord damage due to the strangulation that cut off the oxygen to her brain. The centre part of the brain remained intact which kept her responsive only of pain in a vegetative state confined to a bed for forty decades.
In the early 70s in India, exposing a matter as sensitive as rape would bring disgrace to the family and the society would outcast and further traumatise the victim. Sohanlal served a seven-year jail sentence for the physical assault and robbery but was never punished for the sexual assault because the hospital’s director hid the matter of sexual molestation since he thought he was protecting her honour. The strict law passed in 2014 after the gang rape and killing of a student on a Delhi bus in 2012. In that context, Sohanlal would be imprisoned for another 10 years in conjunction with the seven-year sentence.
Family members abandoned her Aruna because they never received any compensation from the hospital authorities and they could not afford the treatment. Her fiance had also moved on with his life and got married someone else. The hospital staff remained faithful and took care of all her needs. Aruna’s case prompted the Euthanasia Debate in India when journalist Pinki Virani requested mercy killing for Aruna. Although the Supreme Court refused the petition on 7th March 2011, it authorised passive euthanasia by removing life support to patients in a longlasting vegetative condition.
Aruna was diagnosed with pneumonia and passed away in the morning of 18th May 2015. Her life revealed a tale of a woman’s degradation and how rape and subjugation left the individual victimised for the rest of her life.
Thank you for reading, fellow humans.