In 2012, when news broke about a fatal gang rape and assault of a young woman in South Delhi's Munirka, media agencies and newsrooms were law-bound to conceal the name and identity of the victim. As more and more gruesome details about the crime emerged, the nation who mourned the death of another daughter, collectively decided to address her as "Nirbhaya", meaning fearless.
On December 16, the victim was travelling back home after a movie with her friend when she was tortured, raped and sodomized in a moving bus by six men. The woman was still alive when she and her friend were thrown out of the bus. However, three days and five surgeries later, she succumbed to her injuries. The heinous nature of the crime shook the nation; candle marches were organised, social media outrage ensued, protests which often turned violent also followed.
Amidst all this, the identity of the victim was fiercely protected by media houses and the investigation teams engaged in the case. Naturally, people around the country began to use pseudonyms like "Damini" and "Amanat" to refer to her. The one that stuck, "Nirbhaya", became symbolic of women's strength and bravery. Literally meaning fearless or brave, the term has since then been used to speak about the hundreds of other rape survivors and victims who have come after it. The pseudonym resonated with Indians to the extent that then Finance Minister of India, P Chidambaram, decided to name a fund created to ensure the safety of women the 'Nirbhaya Fund'.
Seven years later, things haven't really changed much. India still continues to be one of the most unsafe countries in the world for women with crimes against women at an all-time high. The rape and murder of a 26-year-old woman in Telangana last week has once again taken the country by storm, with many comparing the incident to the 2012 brutality.
Several headlines addressed the Hyderabad rape victim as "Hyderabad's Nirbhaya." Posts with the hashtag, Nirbhaya, have been aplenty on both Twitter and Facebook. While it can be argued that the sheer nature of the incident and the mood in the country is reminiscent of that in 2012, it is completely irrational and illogical to compare one crime to another.
Another trend which is alarming, to say the least, is the tendency to call these victims "Nirbhaya."
Why Nirbhaya. Stop calling the victims brave names. They fell victim to rarest of rare brutality. They were denied their fair chance at leading normal life leave alone heroic life.
— Anju Juneja (@junejamkanju) June 12, 2019
Oh for f**k's sake stop calling rape victims Nirbhaya! Women everywhere are f**king scared all the time! Stop making martyrs out of women who are raped and killed just for being women! Gosh this angers me no end. https://t.co/QE3XWLEiIP — Anisha Padhee (@anishapadhee) November 30, 2019
— Aish (@aishhiaishhai) November 30, 2019
Please stop calling her Nirbhaya, she is dead and died in pain nobody can be fearless then. It is a shame to call a rape victim Nirbhaya, after you fail her. Not everything needs packaging. Give a name to the shity culture and law set-up & the resulting outcome 'the rapists'. — gt (@gt26) November 30, 2019
Stop calling all the rape victims as Nirbhaya.They were scared to death before they gets brutality raped& murdered.Infact every woman in this country is scared to stepout in wee hours.Why can't we make a system that assures these men nothing less than death sentence#RIPHumanity
— Sree (@laxmysree) December 1, 2019
God bless you. Finally somebody agrees with me. People should stop calling them Nirbhaya and do something to keep our society safe for anyone and everyone. — Akhila (@aana_2210) December 1, 2019
It annoys me no end when we start calling all rape victims Nirbhaya.Can you even imagine the extent of their fear,their suffering.Stop labelling and calling the victims nirbhaya.We as a society are shameless and more so the media who rush to coin such heartless terms. https://t.co/pXPMfA6PLh
— Iver Newman (@IverNewman) December 2, 2019
Who are we to call the victims fearless? Why should a woman, who has been subjected to inhuman torture and pain which may or may not have resulted in her death, be called brave? The dictionary defines "brave" as someone who shows courage in the face of impending danger. To summarise, everyone should aspire to be courageous and brave. In this case, the impending danger in question is every woman's worst nightmare, and not something one would wish even on their worst enemy and definitely not something any woman should have to endure in order for her to be called brave.