There are some real heroes who change the world for better with their relentless effort and determination. Seema Kushwaha is one such hero. The lady who fought like a true warrior to get justice for Nirbhaya.
How Seema Kushwaha fought persistently to ensure justice for Nirbhaya shows why we need to celebrate her inspiring story. Recently, Seema spoke to HoB and shared many unheard inspiring stories from her childhood to her justice battle for Nirbhaya.
Though the whole nation celebrated Seema for her victory in her quest to seek justice for Nirbhaya, it is heartbreaking to see how her birth wasn’t celebrated at all. Recalling the tough childhood she mentioned:
“I was born in a village called Uggarpur in Uttar Pradesh. When my mother found out she was pregnant, she wanted to abort because they’d already had 3 daughters and 3 sons, but she couldn’t because we were a sufficient family.
When she delivered me; a girl, everyone except my father and bua was unhappy. The elders and my mother even contemplated killing me –‘What will we do with one more girl?, they debated. Thankfully, bua and papa intervened and I got a shot at life.”
She further added:
“While growing up, my brothers treated me like an unwanted child. Things got better eventually, but I always felt that us girls weren’t treated equally within the family.”
Sharing how the inequality in her childhood prepared her for seeking justice for Nirbhaya, she mentioned:
“My intolerance towards inequality and patriarchy started since then, but maybe it was just in my destiny to go through all of this, so that one day I could fight the most important case of my life– to get justice for Jyoti Singh Pandey… Nirbhaya.”
Recalling how stubborn she was to be independent, she shared:
“But after my 10th, my family insisted on my marriage. I was so scared of my studies being stopped that I went on a hunger strike for 3 days! The ladke wallas heard about this, got scared of this ‘pagal ziddi ladki’ and didn’t even show up to see me!
Even in 2002, when my father passed away and my eldest brother said, ‘Now no one will pamper you, you have to get married’, so my friend Rinky helped me get the LLB form and books. Finally, I left home.”
16th December changed the course of Seema’s life. Sharing how life changed after that Seema mentioned:
“I was staying in a PG, when it happened. 16th December, 2012, the day they gangraped her in a way no one could fathom. When we woke up to the news — there was fear and anger. 12 girls from my PG immediately left Delhi, because their parents were terrified. I was gutted. I cried uncontrollably thinking about her; about what she went through.”
While recalling how she felt deeply connected to Nirbhaya, Seema mentioned:
“I can’t explain how I felt when we got the news that she had succumbed and lost her life. I felt so deeply connected to her that I organised a meet in her memory and invited her parents. After that, there’s rarely been a day that I haven’t spoken to aunty. I also followed the case like a hawk and attended every hearing, even though I wasn’t Jyoti’s counsel.”
The coming years were not only disappointing but heartbreaking too. Delayed justice and AP Singh’s shameful remarks made the journey more difficult.
“Months went by and aunty grew sadder with each passing day. To add to everything, when a journalist had questioned AP Singh on whether he would have taken the case, had Jyoti been his daughter — he said, ‘If she was my daughter, I would have poured petrol on her and let her burn’.
My blood was boiling. Finally, in May 2014, when I spoke to aunty and she said to me, ‘I don’t think my daughter will get justice’. That’s when I promised her– ‘I’ll fight for Jyoti; I’ll take the case — hum chodenge nahi unhe.”
Recalling how even after a flurry of cross-examinations, witness statements, and DNA testing, it was shocking how the convicts lied:
“The bite marks on Jyoti’s body matched Akshay’s teeth. The skin in her nails was theirs and samples of their sperm were found in her private area. I can’t put into words what I felt when they produced that rod in court. I felt like I would faint, even imagining the pain that it would have caused her — still, they lied and said they hadn’t seen the rod before. Their fingerprints were all over it.”
After fighting for 2 years and 11 months; in 2017, the Supreme Court gave the same verdict — the convicts deserved to die. But AP Singh tried everything to delay the final execution.
And when the justice felt distant, it was Jyoti who gave Seema the strength she needed:
“Justice felt distant, but I found the strength to push harder, every time I went to Jyoti’s room and saw a photo of her smiling. You know, after everything the only thing she told aunty in the hospital was that she wanted to live? That she wanted to see her torturers hang and become a doctor to help others?”
Finally, 7 years, 3 death warrants and countless delays later, her efforts paid off. Justice was supposed to be delivered on March 20th, 2020. But AP Singh hadn’t given up yet.
“The night before the hanging, while India slept — I was in court. After trying his luck in the lower courts, AP Singh woke up the Supreme Court at 12:00 am in a last ditch attempt to save the convicts.
Finally, at 3 in the morning, the judge said, ‘It’s time for your clients to meet with God and you need to accept that AP Singh!’But he still couldn’t accept it.
Outside the courtroom, he abused Jyoti in front of the media and blamed her for the suffering of the convict’s family. He asked, ‘Pawan’s mother is handicapped, Vinay has a young son–who will look after them?’
“After they were hung, I began receiving threats on my social media handles. They abused me and said things like, ‘We’ll rape you worse than Jyoti’.
I don’t care about those comments, but what pains me is that ever since, I’ve received over 500 messages from women — some send me pictures of the FIRs they’ve filed to no avail and others tell me about how they’ve been raped, harassed or violated without any justice.”
At IFORHER, we are in awe of Seema’s courage and determination to change the world for women. Despite the society that is flawed, she has only one message for girls who have been wronged:
“‘Hum chodenge nahi unhe’. The fight has just begun.”