They say middle-class India, particularly Delhi, is immune to shocking outrages and crime involving PLTs (people like them). But three shocking cases of (PLUs) people like us in Delhi had brought out the middle-class outrage spilling onto the streets. After all, those killed all belonged to solid Delhi middle-class —Priyadarshini Mattoo rape and murder case in 1995, Jessica Lall murder case of 1999 and Nitish Katara murder case of 2002— and in all three cases the accused had been allowed to get away, literally, with murder. In all three, the accused were sons of powerful and the rich — of Delhi's top cop in the first case, and politicians in the other two.
Some called it the Rang De Basanti syndrome which brought out the public outrage spilling onto the streets. But perhaps it was the acquittal of Manu Sharma on 21 February early this year. The trial court had held that the police had failed to prove its case against the accused. An immediate public outcry followed, which was backed up by media and resulted in high-profile signature-campaigns, candle-light protests, demonstrations and charged discussions. Those in public spotlight, demanding justice were a father (Chaman Lal Mattoo, whose wife had passed on since the murder of their daughter Priyadarshini), a sister (Sabrina Lall, who had lost both her parents weighed down by the death of their daughter Jessica) and a mother (Neelam Katara, a single parent as she had lost her husband before her son Nitish's brutal murder).
Almost two months back, on October 17, it was an old father whose plea for justice for his murdered daughter was answered. It was the turn of a sister to feel vindicated today by the same Delhi Hight Court Bench. A mother awaits her turn for justice. Perhaps she found some hope from Manu Sharma's conviction today, and also some comfort from Sabrina Lall who told her, "Never give up hope. Keep fighting".
Sabrina Lall, sister of Jessica Lall: "It's a vindication for all of us. It is a very emotional day for me. We are missing mom and dad. It is a very good day for the family. There is a feeling of victory and vindication. It has been a long fight but the end result has been amazing."
Neelam Katara, mother of Nitish Katara: My faith in the judiciary has been strengthened. Other citizens can also draw confidence from the case and come forth and fight for justice. This will have an impact in our case also. The judgment shows the past history of Vikas Yadav and I believe that the court will keep this in mind (in the Nitish Katara murder case). I know how it feels. You lose your loved one and then you have to struggle for justice. Had Jessica's mother and father been alive, they would have been happy today that finally justice has prevailed. I believe this will bring peace to their souls. My son would have fought for me had something like this happened to me. I have faith in God"
Bina Ramani, key witness: "Finally, a whole new life is to begin. There should be strong protection for witnesses and I will be on the forefront to create some kind of platform. There would be no Zaheera Sheikhs and Shayan Munshis [who turned hostile, see below] if we have more protection for the witnesses. It's a whole new life for me. Finally truth has come out. I want to start working with children, on AIDS and destitute women.
Kamini Jaiswal, lawyer, 'Justice for Jessica' campaign: "This judgement vindicates how important it is for people to come together. The High Court has not taken any additional evidence. This judgement could have come earlier. How could the trial court acquit him.
Dhruv Suri, coordinator, United Students: "If you ask for something fair, you will get what you deserve. We asked for a fair trial and if that leads to conviction, then be it so. I didn’t know Jessica or Priyadarshini Mattoo. It doesn’t matter what relationship you have with the person. I just wanted to make sure justice gets done."
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