Women who did not lose faith: tales of grit and fortitude

May 28th, 2008 - 8:53 pm ICT by admin  

By Kanu Sarda
New Delhi, May 28 (IANS) Neelam Katara, Neelam Krishnamurthy, Indu Jalali, Sabrina Lall… they are all stories of grit and fortitude. Women who have been moved by personal tragedy to step into India’s courts day after day to bring the perpetrators of crime to book. And in the process they have inspired hundreds of others not to lose faith. With Wednesday’s verdict in the 2002 Nitish Katara murder case, which held Vikas Yadav, a powerful politician’s son, and his cousin Vishal guilty for the murder, women’s empowerment and the role of media in achieving the justice was once again proved.

A relieved Neelam Katara thanked the media after the verdict. Despite the pressures that had come to bear on her, she never gave up and decided to stay the course for six tortuous years.

“I am thankful to all my media friends who stood by me since the beginning of the case till today. The smile on the faces of all of you has given me strength to fight the battle of justice for my son.”

Nitin Katara, brother of Nitish Katara, also echoed his mother’s sentiments. “Cases which are against high-profile people need the help of media so that truth can be brought out to notice. This is what happened in this case also”.

There have been other heroic instances in the country’s legal history.

Neelam Krishnamurthy, who lost two of her children in Delhi’s Uphaar cinema hall fire tragedy that claimed 59 lives in 1997, believes that the support of the media makes a huge difference. Krishnamurthy is convener of the Association of Victims of Uphaar Tragedy (AVUT).

“The media plays a very important role in playing up the wrong-doings of the high and mighty. Putting the spotlight on powerful people like the Ansal brothers, who were held guilty in the fire tragedy, and carrying out some fine investigative journalism in the Katara case is proof,” Krishnamurthy told IANS.

She makes another valid point. In a male-dominated society like India, Krishnamurthy adds, women have to be strong and beaver on despite all odds.

She has been at the forefront of the Uphaar case, which last year saw a lower court convict business tycoon brothers Sushil and Gopal Ansal along with 10 others. But nothing has been able to fill the vacuum created by the death of her children, she says.

Even the special public prosecutor in the case, B.S.Joon could not but hail Neelam Katara’s dogged determination.

“All women should take inspiration from Neelam Katara, who stood strong and like a pillar despite the personal tragedies she faced,” he noted.

Indu Jalali, who was in the forefront of justice for her friend Priyadarshini Mattoo under the banner of ‘Justice for Priyadarshini’, said: “In the beginning we were not taken seriously by anyone, and instead everyone discouraged us. But our never-say-die spirit helped us in sailing through tough times.”

Priyadarshini, a law student, was raped and murdered in Jan 1996 in a south Delhi locality allegdly by her senior at the Law Faculty, Delhi University, Santosh Kumar Singh - the son of an influential senior police officer. Singh was initially acquitted by a trial court, but it was once again media pressure that goaded the authorities to re-investigate the case. He was finally given the death sentence by the Delhi High Court in October 2006.

“No one supported us, but with time and the help of people belonging to various sections of society, justice was achieved,” said Jalali.

The resolute face of Sabrina Lall was one splashed in the media time and again as she fought for justice for her sister Jessica, who was shot dead allegedly by Manu Sharma, the son of a powerful and wealthy politician, in April 1999.

Though her parents died during the course of trial, Sabrina carried on her legal battle for justice, inspiring the people to back her with all their might. In 2006, the Delhi High Court sentenced Manu Sharma to life imprisonment and his two accomplices and co-accused to four years in jail.

Leading woman lawyer Kamini Jaiswal, who also played an active role in the Katara case and helped Neelam when the case was being heard in the apex court for transfer from Ghaziabad, in Uttar Pradesh, to Delhi, praised the role of all the women protagonists.

“Woman no longer sticks to the kitchen. There’s a new wind blowing out there - here’s a lot who know their rights and fight for them till the end. The verdicts in recent cases where women are involved is testimony to this.”

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