It’s not uncommon to miss the invisible engines of humanity- the power source that keeps the wheels moving. After all, societal ignorance often overlooks selfless service. In a society where we are surrounded by humans, not humanity; only a few have the courage to stand up for what is right with a conviction to push the rigid social boundaries. They too have a family, they too are tied by social obligations yet they’re committed to making things better. These people stay outside the media spotlight but when push comes to shove, it’s these quiet heroes who make all the difference.
Recently, when the Nirbhaya case trial came to its conclusion, I looked through the Internet to read about the people behind this victory, the real heroes of this struggle. It was then that I got to know about Seema Kushwaha, a lawyer who stood shoulder to shoulder with Nirbhaya’s parents and relentlessly strived for justice to see the light of the day. However, I was baffled to see such limited media coverage given to someone who had showcased her mettle. It left me with a sense of discontentment. Are we ungrateful to such gems who work selflessly to sustain the psychological, physical, and social health of our community? Why do the so-called celebrities enjoy an air of importance as if it’s a tacit societal insignia while those who stand for truth are lost to oblivion?
Truth requires sacrifice. It’s not an entitlement, it’s a struggle and it sure does hurt. Rarely do these people think of their service as unusual or praiseworthy. True heroes seldom do. But little do the media stories illustrate about such leaders; little do we appreciate such contributions. Society always emphasizes on the need to help people but never acknowledges the ones who do it selflessly. Not today! Today we’ll talk about Seema Kushawaha, the iron lady who took a 7 year long and painful fight from confusion to conclusion.
On December 16, 2012, a gruesome episode jolted the nation to its core. A 23-year-old paramedical student was brutally gang-raped and mercilessly left to die by six men who were travelling on the same bus. Later, despite all medical efforts, she succumbed to this monstrosity. The nation came out to the streets of Delhi in a protest demanding justice but such is the speed of our speedy trials that many started to lose hope. Days went by, months passed, most of us started wandering back helplessly, bestowed with the conundrums of life. Eventually, we did what we are best at; learn to be comfortable being uncomfortable.
Seema was pursuing her post-graduation and training in a lower court when the gang-rape happened. Back then, she aspired to be an IAS officer and had already started preparing for the same. She witnessed how the other girls in her hostel at Mukherjee Nagar were called back by their worried parents’ right after that incident. This fear left a lasting impact. Like many others, she too participated in the protests held outside the Rashtrapati Bhavan. Hopeful that things will change for the better, she participated in vigils for Nirbhaya as a student and continued to closely follow the case thereafter. However, to her disappointment, the convicts engaged in tricks and tactics under the garb of judicial loopholes to delay justice. Committed to the cause and willing to sacrifice everything, she decided to challenge the status quo. After graduating in 2014, at an age of 25 when people are still miserable and anxious trying to figure out what their purpose of life, she became Asha Devi’s lawyer officially. She embarked on her career by taking this infamous case. Remember, until then she hadn’t fought a single case in the court. From trial courts hearings to petitions being filed before the President of India, the case reached several exhausting and painful stages in 7 years. But for her, the fight wasn’t just against the crime or the system now; it was against the mindset; against an absurd sense of privilege that allows the powerful to exploit someone’s emotions, their physicality, and their vulnerability. She kept recounting her meeting with Nirbahaya’s parents, the tears of despair that they shed seeking justice for their daughter. Many times, things just didn’t work out for her, but she learned and persisted. With faith in law and a strong belief, she fought with great distinction through thick and thin without charging a penny. A.P.Singh’s misogynistic remarks about the deceased’s character provoked protests, but Seema chose to maintain her dignified silence. Her only aim was to shatter the false perception that the culprits were living by that they would walk free one day.
There came a ton of failures along her way but none could defy her. Maybe we cannot felicitate and celebrate her struggle but the least we can do is to acknowledge her efforts. Because when people either in the course of their jobs or in the course of their lives – work to enhance the well-being of the community, it’s important to acknowledge their contributions. Only a few have the courage to break free from traditions, personal ambitions, economic security. The pre-dawn execution of the culprits highlights her endearing values of resilience, integrity and empathy. Thanks to the advocate Seema Kushwaha, that the four culprits were put to gallows in Tihar Jail. It’s because of her that Nirbhaya could finally have her peace.
Mostly women lawyers tend to focus on civil cases dealing with domestic violence and dowry harassment, yet Seema prefers to focus on criminal ones. She believes that her rural background helps her channelize her aggression into the courtroom. She is presently working in close coordination as a legal advisor at Nirbhaya Jyoti Trust, an institute established by the Nirbhaya’s parents which helps women who have experienced violence to find shelter and legal assistance. She continues to struggle for voices that are often left unheard, relentless in following up on the case delays and standing strong for the victims. She continues to make a dent in this rigid system serving as an inspiration and motivation for others to follow!
DISCLAIMER : Views expressed above are the author’s own.