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JWB Tribute to Aruna Shanbaug

  • IWB Post
  •  May 19, 2015


The face of euthanasia debate in India, Aruna Shanbaug, 66, passed away in Mumbai on Monday morning. She remained in a vegetative state and was confined to a bed in a small room for more than four decades in the same KEM hospital where she was sexually attacked and stifled by a ward boy.

Aruna, whose dream of nursing the sick and the weak back to wellbeing died young on November 27, 1973, when Sohanlal Walmiki assaulted her. She endured serious wounds to her spine, while the strangulation with a dog chain cut off oxygen supply to her brain, rendering her to a vegetative state forever.

Aruna Shanbaug’s narrative is really tear-jerking. although, it is even more heart-breaking to see how the nurses of KEM Hospital unfalteringly remained by her and rendered their painstaking, selfless services even when she had been abandoned by her family and betrayed by the justice system.

The loss suffered by Shanbaug mentally and emotionally was much stronger than any physical loss she went through. Shanbaug’s rapist was sentenced for two simultaneous seven-year sentences in case of the assault and robbery; however he hadn’t been punished either for rape, or for the alleged inhuman “unnatural sexual offence”.

Shanbaug, who belonged to Haldipur in Karnataka did not have many visitors. Aruna’s maternal family dissociated themselves from Aruna after she was brutalized and her paternal family abandoned her after the hospital started insisting them on taking her home. Her sister Shanta Nayak, the only relative in Mumbai, died in September 2013.

One life has just passed away miserably because of someone’s heinous act. The entire nation today is glowing in anger, which is totally justified. Sohanlal Valmiki was not charged with the rape because he had not committed rape vaginally, but anally. The medical examination of Aruna Shanbaug, after her assault was done with the ‘finger test’ in which her virginity was found intact.

Aruna was engaged to a junior doctor at the hospital. The then dean chose not to report the anal rape to the police to spare him ’embarrassment’ through public disclosure. Aruna’s fiancé was also discouraged from being a complainant. Instead, a sub-inspector became the complainant because no one else was willing.


Source: TOI

All these points shows not only the weak roots of Indian law but also the deep rooted hypocrisy of the society.

Things will not change much after this case in terms of the violence, but we want people to at least talk about this issue openly now.

While writing this tribute, we have been struggling to find correct words. On thinking about what Aruna Shanbaug herself wished to have said, the only word we come up with is GRATITUDE. JWB would like to express the sincerest gratitude towards the nursing staff for being a true inspiration for all. Many of us do not even know that these nurses are poorly paid and need to be taken care. These nurses have taken care of the unfortunate soul for so many years. They are the real heroes of this story.

We will always remember the unforgettable Aruna Shanbaug and hope that her soul dwells peacefully in the twilight zone.

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