Aruna Shanbaug is no more. She died at Mumbai’s King Edward Memorial (KEM) Hospital today, May 18, 2015. If you have never heard about her before the news of her death, you need to know who she was. The trauma she faced has been the subject of heated discussions on news channels and courtrooms for several years. Incidents from her life, including the vicious sexual assault in 1973 that left her in a vegetative state, are disclosed here not merely for awareness but because her story demands that no other person gets to suffer the way she did.
Aruna had been living the torture since her assault on the night of November 27, 1973, which left her in a vegetative state. She lost her power of speech, ability to move her limbs, and underwent partial blindness. She was choked with a dog chain by her assaulter that cut off the oxygen supply to her brain and caused the life-long damage.
Aruna’s elder sister, Shanta Nayak, kept herself away from Aruna all these years fearing she might have to take care of her. The one person whom Aruna could fall back on avoided her at her time of need.
Where the sister rejected Aruna the strangers in the hospital she worked for took care of her and did not give up on her till the end. They even protested when the BMC attempted to shift Aruna elsewhere to free the bed she was occupying. Not to forget mentioning that BMC had to drop all their plans.
The worst part of this case is that the culprit was acquitted after serving in jail only for robbery and attempt for murder, and not rape. The rape was kept a secret as per the instructions of the dean of the KEM Hospital. He concealed the rape considering that Aruna would be rejected by the society and her approaching marriage would stand affected.
Her plea of euthanasia put across by her author friend Pinki Virani was rejected by Supreme Court. They however allowed passive euthanasia which would mean denying the patient basic amenities that allows them to survive. In our country where euthanasia is not legal, her case brought a change where passive euthanasia is now permitted where a person is terminally ill or in persistent vegetative state.
The hospital staff which was taking care of Aruna Shanbaug was overjoyed on the rejection of the plea for euthanasia. They wanted her to live and took care of her till her last breath.
We pray that Aruna Shanbaug, who was cruelly denied the right to live by a man more despicable than anything else in the universe, is able to find joy wherever she is now.
This article was updated on May 18, 2015.