Shanbaug's death evokes sympathy

| | Mumbai
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Shanbaug's death evokes sympathy

Tuesday, 19 May 2015 | TN RAGHUNATHA | Mumbai

The death of Aruna Ramachandra Shanbaug, who had for all practical purposes been lying in a ‘Permanent Vegetative State’ (PVS) in the KEM Hospital, for close to 42 years after she was sexually assaulted by a ward boy on November 27, 1973, evoked wide-spread sympathy and condolence among people from various walks of life on Monday.

Condoling Aruna’s death at the KEM Hospital, Maharashtra Governor Ch Vidyasagar Rao said: “The news of the demise of Aruna Shanbaug is extremely painful. One feels as if one has lost a family member. The incident of the brutal attack on Aruna Shanbaug that forced her to live in a vegetative state for all these years was heart wrenching for the entire society. May her soul rest in eternal peace”.

“My deepest condolences on the sad demise of Aruna Shanbaug. It was painful to see her suffering. I salute the humanity shown by KEM nurses,” Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis tweeted.

Former journalist Pinki Virani, who had authored a book “Aruna's Story: The true account of a rape and its aftermath” in 1998 on the ordeal underwent by Aruna during and after the much-discussed ghastly incident, said that the sexually assaulted victim died a painful death. 

“Aruna died a painful death. She was broken, battered and traumatized. She died a legal death today. All I can tell her is: Alvida Aruna. She did not receive justice, till her last day,” she said.

Virani, whose petition seeking grant of euthanasia for Aruna was rejected by the Supreme Court on March 7, 2011, said that passive euthanasia with conditions came into existence because of her case.

“The 2011 verdict is a landmark judgment. The euthanasia is now allowed subject to strict conditions for a person who is brain dead, or in coma, on a ventilator in a persistent vegetate state. The verdict is applicable when medical and biological improvement does not and cannot take place.

In her reaction to the passing away of Aruna, former dean of KEM Hospital Dr Pragna Pai recalled: "Nurses would clean, feed, change her clothes, not mechanically. They would talk her... While trying to clean her mouth, by chance she would bite a finger".

While rejecting Virani’s plea seeking grant of euthanasia, a two-member bench of the Supreme court – comprising Justices Markandey Katju and Gyan Sudha Misra – had observed in its March 7, 2011 verdict: “We do not mean to decry or disparage what Ms. Pinky Virani has done. Rather, we wish to express our appreciation of the splendid social spirit she has shown….. All that we wish to say is that however much her interest in Aruna Shanbaug may be it cannot match the involvement of the KEM hospital staff who have been taking care of Aruna day and night for 38 years”.

Aruna’s painful life story became a subject for several books and plays. Former Journalist Pinky Viran was among the first persons to write a book on Aruna  “Aruna’s Story: The True Account Of A Rape And Its Aftermath, which was published by Penguin Books, was released in 1998. The book was translated into Marathi as Arunachi Goshta   by Meena Karnikar.

 Duttakumar Desai wrote the Marathi play Katha Arunachi  in 94-95. Performed initially at college level, the drama was staged under director Vinay Apte in 2002. 

 Subsequently, a Gujrati fiction novel, Jad Chetan  was written by popular Gujarati author Harkisan Mehta in 1985 based on Aruna Shanbaug's case. Similarly, popular TV series Crime Patrol came up with a resembling account on Aruna Shanbaug’s story in one of its episodes on Sony Television.

 Vaijayanti Apte, a former journalist and wife of late Vinay Apte, who directed the Marathi play on Aruna “Katha Arunachi , recalled her and her late husband’s interactions with doctors and nurses of KEM hospital associated with Aruna,

 “We were not allowed to meet Aruna but were asked to see her from a distance. A sense of compassion and sadness arose after seeing her. The play was written by Dattakumar Desai, and Vinayji thought that the story of an upright, gritty young nurse whose life takes a sad turn made a good subject. But we took care to ensure that the dramatised version of the real—life incident did not in any way cast aspersions on the victim as she was a living person,” Vaijayanti said.

 Vaijayanti recalled that her husband who directed and produced the play had invited the KEM staff to witness the rehearsals.“Only after their clearance, we staged the play in 2002,” she said adding the hospital set was re-created on stage by Pradeep Mulay.

 “The play was staged at various places in the state on for nearly two years. Despite the good reviews, the feedback we got was that the audience went back with a sad feeling. So we decided not to continue staging the play,” she said

 Meanwhile, Bollywood personalities reacted sympathetically to the demise of Aruna at the KEM Hospital.

 Among the first film personalities to react, veteran actor Rishi Kapoor tweeted, “RIP Aruna Shanbaug, nurse, battling for life since 1973, passes away”

 “Such a sad ending! R I P #ArunaShanbaug,” wrote Neha Dhupia, while filmaker Madhur Bhandarkar hoped for a “a better life in a better world”.  “A 42—yr struggle ends as #ArunaShanbaug leaves for a better life in a better world. A chilling story rewritten by KEM’s compassion. RIP,” Bhandarkar tweeted.

 Satish Kaushik tweeted: “42 Years... My god... Terrible.. Aruna Shanbaug at last got rid of her miseries and pain... May heaven be the happiest place for her... RIP”.

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