This morning, Punita Devi sat outside the Patiala House Court in Delhi and pleaded, "Don't kill my husband". Her nine-year-old son held on to her. Devi's husband Akshay Singh, one of the four accused found guilty of the horrific rape and murder of a 23-year-old paramedical student eight years ago, is to be executed tomorrow.
Moments after the Patiala House Court dismissed the plea of 2012 Delhi gangrape convicts seeking a stay on their execution scheduled for March 20, Devi broke into tears. "I am going to kill myself if they kill my husband," she said, before losing consciousness for a few moments.
"If they kill him, what will be left of my life? They should kill me too," she says while attempting to control her sobs. "He will be hanged, but I will suffer all my life," she said. Devi fears that once her husband is dead, she will have nowhere to go.
"Why should I be punished?" she asks.
It was eight years ago when a 24-year-old Thakur was arrested for gang-raping and killing a 23-year-old inside a moving bus. Thakur had confessed to his family and the police that he was on the bus. The police had identified him as the 'helper' of driver Ram Singh. But his family never believed he could have committed the crime. “He loves me very much,” Devi had then told reporters, refusing to believe that her husband is capable of committing such a 'dirty' crime.
Devi has filed for divorce in a local court in Bihar, contending that she does not wish to be a widow of a man who was hanged. But, in the divorce plea, she asserted that her husband was innocent. “My husband is innocent, but he has been found guilty in the rape case and is to be hanged by the court order. I don’t want to lead my life as his widow,” her petition reads.
But she keeps repeating, even after eight years, that her husband has done nothing wrong. Devi lives with her husband's family in their village, Lahangkarma, in Bihar. But she says she doesn't know what her future holds. "All I can think of right now is the shame that I will be forced to live with. Itna bada kalank..." she says. "I will sit outside this court and kill myself," she says. She makes no attempt to control her sobs anymore.
"Where will I live? What will my child eat? I am a woman. The government should know what happens to a woman after her husband is hanged," Devi says. "Why are the politicians not thinking about me? I am a woman too."
On March 5, the trial court had issued fresh warrants for the hanging of all convicts in the Delhi gangrape case -- Mukesh Singh (32), Pawan Gupta (25), Vinay Sharma (26) and Akshay Singh (31). The date was decided to be March 20 at 5.30 am.
The convicts have now used every ruse to delay the execution, taking it in turns to file repeated petitions.
Six months after Thakur left the village to work as a bus conductor in Delhi, he returned on December 21, five days after the Delhi gangrape incident. Days later, he was arrested.
"I have been punished every day for the last eight years. You are punishing my husband. Why are you punishing me too?" she asks.