Condolences pour in for Aruna as people appreciate the humanitarian work done by KEM hospital nurses.
Aruna Shanbaug former nurse of KEM hospital who was in coma for four decades after being sexually assaulted by a ward boy passed away yesterday. Aruna was suffering from Pneumonia and was put on ventilator last week. She was being taken care of staff nurses of KEM hospital as they expected her to recover soon but fate had other plans for her. They had also vehemently fought for her right to live after a euthanasia plea was filed in Supreme Court.
Shanbaug was brutally assaulted and raped by a wardboy, Sohanlal Bharta Valmiki, after throttling her with a dog chain on November 27, 1973. The brutal assault cut off blood and oxygen supply to key parts of her brain. Since then Ms. Shanbaug had been in a vegetative state and confined to a bed at the KEM hospital.
In March 2011, the Supreme Court had rejected a petition filed by former journalist and author Pinki Virani, who had sought mercy killing (euthanasia) for Aruna Shanbaug. The case triggered a debate on euthanasia and Virani made passionate pleas for an end to what she described as Shanbaug’s “unbearable agony”. Virani had narrated the story of the ailing nurse in her 1998 non-fiction book called ‘Aruna’s Story’, while Duttakumar Desai wrote the Marathi play, ‘Katha Arunachi’ in 1994-95, which was staged under director Vinay Apte in 2002.
“Her actual death happened in 1973 (referring to the tragic attack on her) now what has happened is her legal death. Our Aruna has given our country a big thing in form of a law on passive euthanasia”, said Pinki Virani.
“The demise of Aruna Shanbaug is a jolt for any sensitive mind. It is ironical and a cruel turn of fate that someone who dreamed of dedicating her life to medical care as a nurse should remain bed-ridden. She continues to fight destiny bravely and her struggle will remain immortal,” State Congress Chief and former Maharashtra Chief Minister Ashok Chavan said in a condolence message.
It was a sad morning for nursing staff of KEM hospital. They lost their family member. “For us she was everything. Our day used to start with her and end with her. We feel lost”, said Sanjivani Jadhav who is working as a sister in KEM hospital from 1978.
“She was like a child. She used to shout loudly when hungry. She loved having chicken and fish. It was her favourite dish. One day she even bite her finger while having fish.” said Anuradha, the head nurse.
A controversy erupted over the funeral, with two relatives of Shanbaug staking claim to perform the last rites. They claimed before mediapersons that all attempts to meet Shanbaug were stone-walled by the hospital authorities. However, nurses at the KEM Hospital demanded that since they had taken care of Shanbaug for over four decades, they should be allowed to perform the last rites. The hospital, civic and police authorities have reportedly evolved a compromise formula by which the nurses and the two relatives shall jointly perform the funeral.
Education Minister Vinod Tawde tweeted, “My condolences on the sad demise of Aruna Shanbaug. She was a hallmark of resilience and grit. May her soul rest in peace.”
Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis tweeted, “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.”
“The care taken by nurses and KEM authorities is no doubt excellent but the accused is free and roaming in Delhi. Right from Aruna Shanbaug to Mathura rape case till recent Nirbhaya case we have seen the women being struggling for justice, there is no one to answer a question how many more Arunas will we have to see until we get a strengthened law and judicial system? asks Neelam Gorhe spokesperson of Shiv Sena.
“It is once again proved that women in India will have to sacrifice their lives to get justice” said Annie Raja General Secretary, National Federation of Indian Women.
Last year, Aruna was shifted back to a newly furbished room at the KEM Hospital after a week-long stay in the intensive care unit.